Mitch Ladyman: What do mining companies do for the environment?

Mitch is out bush so he asked us to post this on his behalf.


I was in Bunnings the other day: Australia’s largest hardware warehouse chain with exceptionally large warehouses full of……….well, hardware (in-text footnote – I actually believe that all Bunnings stores function in a parallel universe on a different space/time continuum: men (and women) of all ages ‘pop’ in to quickly grab a hardware item and emerge three days later with a bunch of stuff they neither want nor need).


Accustom to the typically very friendly service I was rather taken aback by one young female employee who, upon seeing the company logo on my car and questioning me as to what I did for a living, unreservedly and assertively quipped about her ‘hatred for mining and mining companies’.


At this point, I had to make a choice: am I going to be dismissive of her or am I going to present her with an alternate view in an attempt to encourage her to reconsider her values. I had nothing to lose and very little to gain from either of the above.


I had to dig deep to muster any amount of my usual enthusiasm and effervescence. Within seconds I was waxing lyrical with countless personal experiences and examples of how the mining dollar underpins a lot of very valid ecological research and an endless array of conservation projects across this great state of ours. In a brief and fleeting display of cognizance about the subject matter this young lady rightly pointed out that mining companies are only funding said research and conservation projects because they are legally obliged to do so (though she did not put it quite so eloquently). She is correct, of course. But is it not better that the work get done out of obligation than not done at all? Moreover, there are many companies that contribute beyond their Ministerial requirements by choice. Often this results in recognition through industry environmental awards which are valued by the companies staff and shareholders.


The outcomes of this exchange have been threefold.

1) I may have actually influenced this young lady’s way of thinking and she has since embraced miners as conservation allies rather than enemies.

2) I have concluded that Bunnings would do well to educate their staff in communicating in a manner which is both warm and embracing, rather than abrasive, abject and affronting.

3) I am suddenly very concerned about what the nationwide slow down in mining means for conservation projects in Australia.


Mining companies in the Pilbara are delivering hundreds of thousands of dollars into the government coffers and that money will be used to fund many projects on Northern Quoll (a species under significant threat in W.A.), with the recent Cane Toad invasion, the Greater Bilby (threatened by feral predators), the Malleefowl (threatened by habitat loss and predation) etc etc etc.


Closer to home, at least for me, one of Animal Plant Mineral’s clients has spent tens and tens of thousands of dollars protecting and enhancing feeding and breeding habitat of the Gouldian Finch. That same client funded a regional helicopter survey to find new populations of a flora taxon that was thought to only exist in the Northern Territory. And while we are talking about KMG, it is worthwhile mentioning that they financed a survey to extend the known distribution of the Northern Leaf-nosed Bat, which is to this day the most exciting field survey I have ever designed and executed See this awesome clip to appreciate where I am coming from.


What will happen to the great work that is currently being done when the active mines shut down and no new mining proponents are seeking environmental approval for new mines. Quite simply, the research and conservation work will cease and we will see a return to the era that preceded the mining boom where the staff within government departments, such as the Department of Parks and Wildlife, are stranded at their desks sitting on their hands because they no longer have any money to go bush to do real work.


Taken years ago (2010) these photos capture some of the still ongoing work that APM and KMG are doing on the Gouldian Finch. But with the iron ore price in the gutter, who knows how much longer such projects will last?*

They are called Snappy Gums for a reason: best not lean the ladder on dead hollow limbs.*

If you were a finch, would you be happy to call this home?*

Yes – this looks bad. But no mine equals no money. Benefits outweigh costs.