Saving the West Australia Jarrah Forest

Saving the West Australia Jarrah Forest
US crusader takes on miners

US crusader takes on miners

The Age February 26, 1981, page 3
Alcoa/Reynolds bauxite stripmine

Alcoa/Reynolds bauxite stripmine

In 1981, Conservation Council of Western Australia president Neil Bartholomaeus representing 30 environmental organizations came to attorney Yannacone in Patchogue for help to save their irreplaceable Jarrah Forest. “We have called public inquiries to no avail. We’ve staged street protests and sent people before bulldozers, but they’ve only been arrested.”
Yannacone answered their call for help and on behalf of the Council filed suit against Alcoa and Reynolds Metals in the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania charging that American companies should not be allowed to cause environmental degradation in Australia that they would not be allowed to cause in the United States.
Environmental laws in Australia were rudimentary or nonexistent at the time and the U.S. courts were the only available forum for combating the dangerous expansion plans of the American aluminum companies in Western Australia.
The Alcoa lease in Western Australia covered more than 250 kilometers down the Darling Range which contains the catchment areas for all of the fresh water supply for the city of Perth and the only water source for the inland mining town of Kalgoorlie, more than 500 kilometers to the east.
Alcoa mining operations destroyed the trees over increasingly large areas. With no trees to remove excess water, the underground water level rises and dissolves salts found at higher levels in the soil. This salty water then runs off into the creeks and rivers which supply nearby wheat fields and forests and form the catchment for Perth’s dams.
Jarrah trees, one of the world’s hardest woods cannot grow in the hard claypan left after the bauxite is mined so reforestation was not an option.