The D’Entrecasteaux National Park is situated in the south-western corner of Western Australia. It encompasses a 130 km long coastline of spectacular limestone cliffs rising above vast untouched beaches, extensive woodlands, dramatic granite outcrops and a system of wetlands including the perched freshwater Yoondadadup Lake Jasper. The Park harbours rare species of fauna and flora and provides habitat for Quokkas and Woylies.
It is also the locale of an ancient cultural landscape, with Aboriginal quarries and chipping floor sites dating back 4800 years. Many of these are now submerged, indicating that Yoondadadup Lake Jasper was once inhabited woodland. There is a native title claim lodged over the area.
Yoondadadup Lake Jasper is the largest natural freshwater lake in South West Western Australia. It is part of an outstanding example of a near-pristine, extensive system of freshwater lakes, marshes and shrub swamps, the Gingilup-Jasper Wetland System and harbours a unique array of plant species.
About 10 metres deep, Lake Jasper covers 440 hectares, and its associated swamps 80 hectares. However, the total wetlands area may be 30-50% greater in early spring. The water is fresh and clear. It appears that most of the lake’s water supply comes from groundwater.
There are 10 freshwater fish species in the south-west of WA, eight of them endemic. Yoondadadup Lake Jasper is a major nursery area for the native freshwater fishes. Seven of the nine fishes known from the Gingilup-Jasper Wetland System occur at Lake Jasper, which also supports eight wetland frogs.
Yoondadadup Lake Jasper is one of Western Australia’s few large freshwater lakes that is undamaged by human activity. As a near pristine component of the Gingilup-Jasper Wetland system of freshwater lakes, marshes and shrub-swamps, it is a breeding ground to 25 species of waterbird. Scientific surveys of the area have ranked Lake Jasper third among the 27 south coast wetlands for species diversity and abundance. In overall importance it came second.
The national significance of D’Entrecasteaux National Park has been recognised by the Australian Heritage Commission, which has placed the Park on the Register of the National Estate. D’Entrecasteaux National Park and Yoondadadup Lake Jasper are the jewels in the crown of wilderness areas in the South West and provide tourism that is vital to south coast communities.
The previous Court State Government of Western Australia had legislated to excise 368 hectares from the National Park to allow mineral sand mining immediately adjacent to Yoondadadup Lake Jasper. The proposed mine is within the winter-spring flood zone of the lake and is very close to the lake’s summer shoreline.
The proposed mine will essentially cut the Gingilup-Jasper Wetland ecosystem in half. The water flow and connectivity between the areas will be radically altered. Previously, exploration licenses had been granted to the west of Lake Jasper near Lake Quitjup and in the Gingilup Swamps, which are all part of the Jasper-Gingilup Wetlands System. If this current application is successful, then we may see the further expansion into the last intact wetland ecosystem in the south-west. Over half of Australia’s wetlands have been destroyed since European settlement.
If mineral sand mining proceeds, the environmental consequences within a few years of the initiation of mining will be severe. Mineral sand mining involves the complete devastation of soils due to alteration of soil chemistry and the utter destruction of the soil profile. As vegetation and hence fauna habitat depend entirely on the nature of soils, the structure and species richness of flora and fauna communities will be forever altered, despite revegetation efforts. Rehabilitation of the ecosystem is impossible in the short term to medium term. Whether it can be in the long-term should not be experimented inside a national park or a conservation reserve. Strategic Sands has little experience in re-vegetating native flora such as is found in the excised zone.
The CSIRO report on the hydrology of the Lake Jasper area identified a connection between the groundwater, surrounding surface water and the lake. Lake Jasper’s recharge area occurs to the north and west of the lake corresponding with the proposed mine area. Likely impacts on the hydrology include the lowering of the water level of the lake and surrounding wetlands and contamination of surface or groundwater, which may have drastic effects on the aquatic ecosystem as well as breeding sites for the regions bird life.
If not stopped Strategic Sands may cause irreversible damage to this world class area.