BHP Billiton Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) has lodged a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for its central Pilbara iron ore assets in order to continue to mine iron ore in the region for more than a century.

The SEA, submitted to the Commonwealth as well as Western Australia State Governments, gives an overview of the regional environmental footprint of all of the company’s existing and potential future iron ore operations in Pilbara.

BHP Billiton Western Australia Iron Ore Asset president Edgar Basto said the company had been operating in the Pilbara for almost 50 years.

"We are proud to be the first mining company to use our environmental knowledge to prepare and submit a Strategic Environmental Assessment in Australia, which could help build a long-term sustainable future for not only WAIO, but also the Western Australian community.

"We are proud to be the first mining company to use our environmental knowledge to prepare and submit a Strategic Environmental Assessment in Australia."

"It outlines where we may develop in the future so any potential impacts on the environment can be assessed and adequately managed for future generations."

BHP also needs to work with relevant departments to ensure necessary approvals are in place for individual projects.

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The company said that it worked through the approval process for individual projects earlier and now looks at how future developments may interact.

After obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the Pilbara region the company said it will be in a position to better manage its natural resources.

The assessment is expected to offer a readily available source of environmental information for others to draw on.

BHP added that decisions on production volumes, as well as the development or execution of further greenfield projects, remain independent commercial decisions and are separate from the SEA.