A large, new open cut iron ore mine in the Pilbara has been recommended for conditional approval by the Environmental Protection Authority.
The Koodaideri Iron Ore Mine and Infrastructure proposal, which is expected to generate up to 70 million tonnes of iron ore per year, was assessed as a Public Environmental Review - the most stringent examination of environmental impacts conducted by the EPA.
With an expected operational mine life of more than 30 years, the proposal by Mount Bruce Mining Pty Ltd (a subsidiary of Rio Tinto) will be located about 110 km west-north-west of Newman in the Pilbara.
The development includes mine pits, ore processing areas, waste dumps and a storage facility as well as railway and infrastructure corridors, which will require up to 12,171 hectares of clearing within a development envelope of 65,888 hectares.
Chairman Paul Vogel said after extensive investigation, the EPA concluded the project could meet the independent board’s objectives across several environmental factors if multiple conditions were implemented.
Dr Vogel said the proponent had actively sought to avoid, minimise and rehabilitate environmental impacts through the proposal’s design and had conducted numerous studies to supplement technical information and to address issues raised in the public submissions.
“The EPA concluded the proposal could be implemented in an environmentally acceptable manner but only if 14 conditions were implemented,” Dr Vogel said.
“These conditions include a management plan and creation of buffers and an exclusion zone to ensure the proposal does not affect a colony of Pilbara Leaf-nosed Bats. The management plan and exclusion zones will also protect the Koodaideri Spring and the associated creek and pools that provide a near permanent source of water, which in turn will safeguard vegetation as well as habitat for the Pilbara Leaf-nosed Bat, Northern Quoll and the Pilbara Olive Python.”
It is also recommended the proponent will be required to rehabilitate the mine in an ecologically sustainable manner once the mine closes as well as contributing offsets to a Government conservation fund for the Pilbara.
Dr Vogel said that the EPA has also recommended a condition to manage the potential spread of asbestos where the proposal’s Western Rail Corridor crosses the Wittenoom Asbestos Management Area.
“Although the risk of the proposal increasing the spread of asbestos in the environment is low, the EPA is taking a cautious approach by recommending a condition on asbestos management during design and construction of the rail line,” Dr Vogel said.
The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period. Appeals close December 2, 2014 and can be made at www.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au
Appeals are independently administered by the Appeals Convenor and determined by the Minister for Environment.
This proposal is also being assessed under a bilateral agreement with the Commonwealth.
Both State and Federal Ministers for the Environment will make a decision under their respective legislation.
EPA Report 1533 is available at www.epa.wa.gov.au
Media Contact: Nadia Miraudo 0400 866 450