BHP Billiton Iron Ore has secured approval from the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to proceed with development of its Orebody 31 iron-ore mine in the Pilbara.
The company has plans to develop the project 40km east of Newman as a replacement for the Orebody 18 mine, which is slated for decommissioning in 2018.
Expected to produce around 30 million tonnes a year of iron ore, the project will use the existing mine’s facilities, which include primary crusher, stockpiles and train load-out facilities.
All the facilities are located immediately west of Orebody 31.
The deposit is estimated to be 70% below the water table, and needs mine dewatering of up to 16.2 gigalitres a year for dry mining.
As part of this process, up to 2,500ha of native vegetation in ‘good to excellent’ condition would be cleared within a development of 4,075ha.
EPA Chairman Dr Paul Vogel said the proposal, examined at the Assessment on Proponent Information level, would meet the agency’s environmental objectives, subject to conditions.
Vogel said: "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."
Vogel further said that the EPA made a note of the proponent’s efforts in a bid to minimise and rehabilitate predicted environmental impacts.
Vogel added: "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."
In order to offset the residual impacts relating to the clearing of vegetation in ‘good to excellent’ condition, a mine closure plan also needs to be put in place.