BHP Iron Ore has received authorisation to increase shiploading throughput at its Port Hedland premises from 290 million tonnes per year to 330 million tonnes per year.
The application to amend BHP’s current licence was made in mid-2020 and the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) gave its approval this month.
However, the approval was subject to BHP fulfilling both noise and dust control requirements.
“Throughput increases are likely to result in increased dust emissions from the Premises if controls do not adequately reduce emissions from key dust sources,” DWER stated.
“As there is uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of the proposed dust controls, and DWER has determined a ‘High’ dust risk associated with premises activities, throughput increases are contingent upon the implementation of further controls.”
To cater to the 40 million tonne increase, BHP proposed a raft of changes to the current infrastructure in place at Port Hedland.
At Nelson Point, these included two new stockpile areas, two new reclaimers, one upgraded and one additional stacker, and a raft of changes to lump rescreening plants and routes taken around the premises.
In April 2020, BHP signalled it would invest around $300 million over five years to improve air quality and dust emissions.
This came as then BHP Western Australian Iron Ore acting asset president Tim Day said the company was placing an increased focus on the strength of its Pilbara operations – including at Port Hedland.
“BHP is committed to the long-term sustainable future of the Pilbara as an economic powerhouse, both during and post the COVID-19 recovery,” Day said.
“Any increase in our production has the potential to deliver flow-on benefits for local jobs, local businesses and additional royalty revenues for the state and we want to ensure we remain open and transparent about our planned footprint in Western Australia.”
In mid-2020, DWER advertised BHP’s licence amendment application in multiple local newspapers calling for public submissions, of which there were several relating to noise and dust concerns.
DWER recognised these concerns and assured submitters that appropriate measures were in place and would be enforced.
“DWER acknowledges that the risk of dust impacts is high and port operations have been authorised to date, subject to multiple regulatory controls,” the Department stated.
“Conditions of the amended licence are considered appropriate and proportionate to the risk associated with operations at the premises.”