Decision : CONF 201 V.B.19
Shark Bay, Western Australia (Australia)
The Observer of Australia informed the Bureau that the granting of a petroleum exploration permit, on 29 November 1996, by the State Government of West Australia was brought to the attention of the Commonwealth Government in January 1997. In Australia decisions to issue mining exploration permits are taken at the level of the State Government. The State Government appeared to have been unaware that the area for which an exploration permit was issued was located within the World Heritage site. Following the intervention of the Commonwealth Government of Australia, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) of the Western Australian Government has established a panel to assess the development proposal and prepare environmental strategies. The Observer of Australia assured the Bureau that no decision to allow oil exploration activities would be taken until the EPA assessment of the potential environmental impacts of such activities is completed, and no such development will take place if it threatens World Heritage values.
IUCN raised an issue in regard to the report submitted by the Australian. IUCN pointed out references to prospecting licences being issued by the Queensland Government which could have implications for the Great Barrier Reef area and by the Western Australian Government involving part of the Shark Bay World Heritage area. While IUCN noted the Australian statement that mining would not be permitted if it would have adverse effect on the World Heritage properties, and that the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act would override any State action which threatened World Heritage values, IUCN suggested the situation merited closer liaison with the Government over the issuing of property licenses, especially as IUCN understood the Queensland mining laws carried an automatic right to a mining permit following the granting of an exploration licence.