Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board Annual Report 2017–19



  • Chair’s report
  • Executive summary
  • Advisory Board
  • Review of the Woomera Prohibited Area Coexistence Framework
  • Stakeholder use of the Woomera Prohibited Area
  • Defence
  • Aboriginal groups and cultural heritage
  • Pastoralists
  • South Australian Government
  • Resource sector
  • Looking forward
  • Annex A: Exclusion periods
  • Annex B: Licences issued or amended by the South Australian Government
  • Annex C: Permits issued or amended by Defence
  • Annex D: Major mines within the Woomera Prohibited Area

Executive summary

The Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) is Australia’s most important military testing range. The complexity and volume of capability trials conducted in the WPA will increase in coming years with the introduction of new Defence capabilities, supported by recent upgrades to the infrastructure and systems of the Woomera Test Range. The recently completed construction of the new Range Operations Centre and Maintenance Support Facility is a crucial step in supporting the testing of new capabilities now and into the future.

Mineral exploration and resource production (mining) continue to provide the highest economic value among non-Defence activities in the WPA despite the current trend of modest resource sector activity. At the start of the reporting period, there were three mines operating in the WPA: the Challenger gold mine, which later went into administration and care and maintenance; the OZ Minerals Prominent Hill copper-gold mine; and the Cu-River Cairn Hill iron ore mine, which suspended operations in August 2017. These mines employed over 1,500 people, contributed $2,257 million in production sales for export and around $98 million to South Australia in royalties during the reporting period.

As of 30 June 2019, 137 resource exploration licences granted through the South Australian Department for Energy and Mining remained current, with 27 resource exploration permits granted by the Department of Defence to access the WPA remaining current and covering a number of exploration licences.

Most significantly during this period, the report on Coexistence in the Woomera Prohibited Area Review 2018 (the Review) was released on 29 March 2019. The Review involved extensive engagement between the Department of Defence; the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science; the South Australian Department for Energy and Mining; and Defence SA, as well as a range of stakeholders with interests in the WPA. The Review’s findings recognised the success of the current coexistence framework and provided 12 recommendations to ensure coexistence endures in the WPA and remains contemporary and fit for purpose.

Additionally, while the Review found that the existing coexistence arrangements are working well and the Woomera Prohibited Area Rule 2014 is fundamentally sound, there is always scope for improvement. The Department of Defence and the South Australian Government, in collaboration with other Commonwealth Government agencies, will continue to look for innovative ways to enhance coexistence in the WPA, balanced with any growth in resource sector activities and Defence’s evolution in testing over the next decade.