Australian iron ore firm Fortescue Metals Group has secured approval from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for its Iron Bridge mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
The North Star magnetite project will be jointly operated by Fortescue, Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics and Baosteel of China.
The mine is expected to run for 45 years and produce up to 15 million tonnes of magnetite a year.
The EPA weighed the proposal against several key environmental factors, including flora and vegetation, terrestrial and subterranean fauna, hydrological processes and inland waters environmental quality and offsets, before issuing 17 strict conditions for the operators to adhere to.
"The EPA recommended a Mine Exclusion Zone to protect Pilbara Leaf-nosed Bat and ensure minimal impact on Northern Quoll."
EPA chairman Paul Vogel said: "The EPA has recommended the implementation of the proposal does not affect the viability of the Pilbara Leaf-nosed Bat through a mine exclusion zone around a regionally significant roost cave."
"Mine construction and operational activities will also need to ensure that impacts to the Northern Quoll will be minimised. Fauna-rescue personnel will also be required to clear trapped fauna in open trenches at least twice daily."
The EPA has recommended that Fortescue contributes to a government-initiated conservation offset fund to tackle the impact of the mining operations on more than 4,700ha of vegetation around the mine area.
Fortescue proposes to transport the magnetite ore to Port Hedland through a pipeline in the form of slurry; the ore will be dewatered at the port.
The dewatering process and other activities would require 14 gigalitres of groundwater from the Canning Basin annually.
The EPA advised the miners to prepare a water quality and quantity monitoring plan to assess the impact of the project’s water requirement on the nearby water pool.
The project now awaits the approval of the Minister for Environment.