A relatively small not-for-profit group is making big waves in the Pilbara resources sector by helping mining companies become custodians for the land and resources in the region.
The investment from one resource company to the Pilbara Mesquite Management Committee (PMMC) has helped to encourage others to invest in protection and reclamation of some of our most valuable landscapes.
Project Manager of PMMC Linda Anderson said the Pilbara was not just about mining, but also home to 52 pastoral stations exporting cattle, as well as areas of special cultural significance, and many unique conservation areas.
However, one unwelcome inhabitant making its home in the Pilbara are weeds. “Pilbara is home to some of the worst infestations in Australia,” Ms Anderson said.
“300,000 hectares of mesquite, with the single largest infestation in Australia at Mardie Station; 680 km of river infested with parkinsonia, three localised infestations of cactus and Calotropis spreading rapidly from the north, infesting across an estimated 1.5 million hectares.”
The PMMS has been operating locally in the Pilbara region for 13 years and works primarily with land managers to battle weed issues on pastoral leases, mining tenements and conservation estates.
Starting with a focus on mesquite, PMMC has since broadened to include a range of invasive weed species affecting Pilbara land managers, and now has a membership of 38 representatives from 27 pastoral, mining, government and community organisations.
“Our funding is competitively gained but healthy, and we are leveraging over $940,000 per year from our partners to directly control weeds in the Pilbara,” Ms Anderson said.
The PMMC’s partnerships with resource companies started, in earnest, with Citic Pacific Mining (CPM) and their Sino Iron project at Mardie Station to tackle the massive issue mesquite was causing on the property.
“Using this one partnership, having one resource company on board and contributing significant dollars towards on-ground management of weeds, we were able to bring six of the largest and most significant resource land holders in the Pilbara on board to invest in, and undertake, weed management programs,” she said.
What was an initial commitment of $300,000 by the Citic Pacific Mining in our weed projects is now an annual investment nearing $1 million by our resource company partners.
Using the relationship and program built with Citic Pacific, the PMMC encouraged other resource companies to get their act together and start meeting legal and social obligations in terms of weed management.
“We made sure that we had solid figures and solid mapping to back the success of the first year program and would push these positive messages at every opportunity, to give major media exposure and credit to one of the new contenders in the Iron Ore business,” Ms Anderson said.
Using lessons learned from the mesquite programs, the PMMC diversified to undertake an Upper Fortescue River parkinsonia management strategy, involving participation by Roy Hill Station, DPaW, Fortescue Metals Group and Roy Hill Iron Ore.
Ms Anderson said at a higher level, there are conflicts between all of these companies.
“However, we managed to bridge our program across all of these tenures, ignoring the conflicts and bringing partners together for a common cause – protecting the Fortescue Marshes,” she said.
Ms Anderson said Rangelands NRM have a pivotal supporting organisation over the past seven years and the outstanding relationship and support has allowed the PMMC to make these advancements.
“We couldn’t be happier with our continuing success in both the direct dollar value of our partnerships with the resource industry and the positive changes we are making on-ground.”