Giant saltworks proposal threatens remarkable eastern Exmouth Gulf environment.
International industrial corporation K+S wants to build a major salt production facility on the eastern side of Exmouth Gulf, over an undeveloped, nationally listed wetland. The industrial saltworks would cover a massive area – the size of nearly 12,000 MCG footy ovals – in a high conservation value and intact environment.
This massive project would involve:
- construction of vast, artificial salt ponds over natural wetland areas
- levee (ridge) walls dozens of kilometres long that risk interrupting important natural processes
- seepage from the salt ponds, causing mobilisation of toxic hypersaline water, risking significant impacts to the fragile, highly biodiverse environment
- permanent damage to the biodiverse Urala Creek South – an undisturbed, beautiful tidal creek – from the construction of major seawater intake infrastructure, including a large pumping station
- heavy machinery and infrastructure including conveyors, a desalination plant, fuel storage, sewerage treatment and roads
- six-storey high salt stockpiles, blighting this natural landscape
barge-loading facilities with a 660m jetty and dredging in this completely undeveloped coastal area.
The nationally listed wetland is one of the last undisturbed tidal wetland systems along the Pilbara coast, which has seen decades of industrial use, to the north of Exmouth Gulf. The wetland ecosystem provides important habitat and nutrients that underpin the marine food web in Exmouth Gulf, supporting its renowned wildlife.
An industrial development of this massive scale poses unacceptable risks to the sensitive environment here, which supports many threatened species including critically endangered sawfish and shovelnose rays, as well as turtles, dugongs, important fish species and migratory shorebirds.
The proposed development is completely at odds with the WA Government’s plans to protect the globally significant environment of Exmouth Gulf, including with a marine park to protect important features of the Gulf, such as those adjacent to the proposed saltworks.
The project risks vital components of the Exmouth Gulf-Ningaloo environment that the WA Government is seeking to protect. There are already large saltworks further up the coast from Exmouth Gulf, with more proposed, and strong concerns about the combined impact of this rapidly expanding industry along this coastline.
We shouldn’t risk Exmouth Gulf’s globally significant environment through industrial development like this salt project.
There is an alternative, positive future for Exmouth with many new opportunities to protect its important natural and cultural heritage and the jobs it supports, and to enhance economic resilience through sustainable, nature-based activity.
WA Government commits to conservation reserves for Exmouth Gulf.
The then Premier, Mark McGowan, announced on 3 December 2021 that the WA Government would protect the unique environmental and cultural values of Exmouth Gulf, Ningaloo.
These commitments include creating a class-A reserve in the Qualing Pool area, proposed location of the Gascoyne Gateway port, and a marine park on the eastern side of the Gulf adjacent to K+S’s proposed salt works. This announcement sent a clear signal that industrial development is incompatible with the world-class environmental values of Exmouth Gulf.
However, there’s still much work to do. To date, K+S Salt and GGL are both proceeding with their project plans seeking environmental and other approvals from the Government. We need to continue to make our concerns about these projects heard. We also need to ensure that the WA Government moves efficiently to establish the proposed conservation reserves, as well as protecting other key values of the Gulf, such as the humpback whale resting and nursing area.