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Angair Inc. (Anglesea, Aireys Inlet Society for the Protection of Flora and Fauna) is angered at the possible extension of the Alcoa Anglesea coalmine within the Anglesea Heath, an area that is listed on the Register of the National Estate. Such an extension will result in the irreversible destruction of pristine heathland of outstanding environmental significance.

Angair members have been helping to care for the Anglesea Heathlands for forty-two years, and during that time, have become aware of the natural values of the area that have led to its inclusion in the Australian Natural Heritage Listing. Angair was one of the community groups that took action to have this area placed on this important register. The heathlands are widely recognised as having flora and fauna biodiversity values of international significance, including many rare and threatened species. The lease area includes one-sixth of the state’s flora. Fourteen of these species are classified as rare, as is also the endemic Grevillea infecunda. Terrestrial orchids abound in the district with over fifty per cent of the State’s orchid flora growing there.

Alcoa Australia has had a mining lease of 7000 ha, and has operated an open cut, brown coal mine in the area for fifty years, since being granted this lease in 1961. Three hundred hectares of internationally significant heathland have disappeared into the coalmine since that date. ALCOA has made genuine attempts to revegetate some of its mined areas, but it is impossible to recreate a heathland. It is unbelievable that the Victorian Government may extend the lease for a further fifty years, which may result in the loss of another 300 ha of intact heathland.

Alcoa has indicated, that should the period of the lease be extended and coal is required in the future, there is an option of going deeper into the existing mine, rather than extending the boundaries into the surrounding heathland. This would provide adequate coal until 2022. Angair considers this to be the only acceptable option, and that it would give time to explore the use of alternative energy, if the Point Henry aluminium smelter is to continue operating.

We have expressed these concerns to many members the Victorian Parliament, both government and opposition, and also to Alcoa Australia, Parks Victoria, the Department of Sustainability and Environment and the Surf Coast Shire. We have also sent this article to the local papers. We encourage our readers to take any individual actions that they feel may be worthwhile, such as writing to local papers or to members of Parliament. We believe the community is the only body that may influence this decision.

Margaret MacDonald