Mulga Rock marsupial conservation plan approved

16 February 2023

Australia's Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) has approved Deep Yellow Ltd's conservation plans for the sandhill dunnart at the Mulga Rock project in Western Australia.

A sandhill dunnart (Image: Landscape South Australia)

The sandhill dunnart (Sminthopsis psammophila) is a small carnivorous marsupial around 10-16 cm long and weighing 30-44 g. During the day they sleep in burrows in the sand, emerging at night to hunt insects, arachnids and small reptiles. Only known to live in a few locations within Australia, and predated upon by introduced species such as foxes and cats, it is listed as "vulnerable" under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Ministerial approval for the Mulga Rock project granted to Vimy Resources in 2016 required the company to prepare a Sandhill Dunnart Conservation Plan (SDCP) to manage the potential impact to the sandhill dunnart from the project and to reduce the threat to it posed by feral animals within a defined area. Vimy merged with Deep Yellow last year.

The study, which has now been published on Deep Yellow's website, involved monitoring 50 randomly-selected small areas called quadrats using camera traps. Over 50,000 "trap nights" have provided a unique insight into the ecology of the region surrounding the project, Deep Yellow said. The study identified numerous positive sightings of dunnarts, pointing to existence of a "robust" population across the survey area.

Feral animals observed during the monitoring programme included cats, dogs, camels, donkeys, mice, rabbits, myna birds and foxes.

Going forward, Deep Yellow is required to provide a list of all sightings of sandhill dunnarts and feral species in future annual environmental reports to DCCEEW and Western Australia's Department of Water and Environmental Regulation and Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions. The company will also share its datasets with local and national stakeholders.

"The prolonged and extensive investment associated with the development of the SDCP will result in the preservation of a habitat supportive of the Sandhill Dunnart and deliver critical knowledge in managing and re-establishing habitat for threatened species in an Australian desert environment," Deep Yellow Managing Director and CEO John Borshoff said.

Mulga Rock is 290km by road east-northeast of Kalgoorlie in the Great Victoria Desert of Western Australia. A Definitive Feasibility Study Refresh for the project released by Vimy in 2020 showed a strategic long-life uranium project with a contemplated production rate of 3.5 million pounds per year. The Government of Western Australia's December 2016 approval of the project stipulated that Vimy must begin substantial commencement within five years, a condition which the company met when work on the excavation of a ramp at the Ambassador North pit began in 2021.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News