EPA recommends approval for ‘replacement’ Pilbara iron ore mine: EPA Report 1559

Release date: 
September 7, 2015

The Environmental Protection Authority has recommended approval for the mining of a new Pilbara iron ore deposit, subject to a set of environmental conditions.

BHP Billiton Iron Ore Pty Ltd proposes to develop the new Orebody 31 Iron Ore Mine Project, approximately 40 km east of Newman, as a replacement for the Orebody 18 mine, which is scheduled for decommissioning in 2018.

The project is expected to produce around 30 million tonnes per annum of iron ore and will make use of the existing mine’s facilities including primary crusher, stockpiles and train load out facilities, all located immediately west of Orebody 31.

The deposit is estimated to be 70 per cent below the water table, requiring mine dewatering of up to 16.2 gigalitres per annum for dry mining conditions and will involve the clearing of up to 2,500 ha of native vegetation in ‘good to excellent’ condition within a development envelope of 4,075 ha.

EPA Chairman Dr Paul Vogel said the proposal - examined at the Assessment on Proponent Information level – would meet the EPA’s environmental objectives, subject to conditions.

“The assessment of this proposal evaluated several key environmental factors including the clearing of flora and vegetation, the technical aspects and impacts relating to water use including mine dewatering and discharges, and the need to rehabilitate and decommission the site in an environmentally responsible way,” he said.

Dr Vogel said the EPA had noted the proponent’s efforts to avoid, minimise and rehabilitate predicted environmental impacts.

“Noted in particular were efforts to change the development envelope boundary and the re-engineering of the location of storage facilities to avoid a Priority 1 flora species - Acacia sp. East Fortescue,” he said.

“The EPA has also recommended several further measures to protect the species including use of protective ‘buffer’ zones, a regional survey, monitoring of the species and, if required, development and implementation of a dedicated conservation and research plan.

”Dr Vogel said further conditions set by the EPA related to the discharge of water, the monitoring of water quality to manage potential impacts from salinity, and the ecologically sustainable decommissioning of the mine.

“A Mine Closure Plan will be required, as will a contribution to a government-established conservation fund, to offset the significant residual impacts relating to the clearing of vegetation in ‘good to excellent’ condition,” he said.

The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period, closing September 21, 2015. Appeals are administered independently by the Appeals Convenor and can be made at www.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au

The Minister for Environment will make the final decision.

EPA Report 1559 is available at www.epa.wa.gov.au

Media Contact: Liz Drew 0400 866 450

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