The West Australian EPA has given conditional approval to BHP Billiton’s plans for an outer harbour development at Port Hedland.
The miner is planning to construct and operate a new shipping berth and stockpile facility on Finucane Island to provide an additional export capacity of 240 million tonnes of iron ore.
Its proposal included both onshore and offshore infrastructure such as rail and iron ore handling, shiploading facilities, a four kilometre long jetty, and a two kilometre wharf.
BHP would also build a six kilomtre overland conveyor to a new transfer pad located to the west of the existing Finucane Island facilities.
According to the miner, once its development is completed vessel movements from the outer harbour would range between 960 and 1400 per year.
In the EPA’s report it put forth a number of concerns, in particular the effect of the expansion on the marine habitat – such as mangroves and fauna, and the increased levels of dust and noise emissions from the port.
However it gave conditional approval for the development stating that BHP must address the protection of mangroves; marine subtidal benthic communities; marine environmental quality; marine fauna; and native vegetation.
The development of this outer harbour has seen BHP push for an extra 6000 fly in fly out workers and new camp accommodation, which has caused concerns amongst the town.
According to a Town of Port Hedland business plan the accommodation development is aiming to be completed by 2016/17 to supply workers for BHP’s proposed Outer Harbour project.
"For economic modelling purposes it has been assumed that the initial state of the BHPB facility will house approximately 2,000 construction workers by 2013/14," it said.
"Additional stages of the facility will be developed over 3-4 years to house a maximum of 6,000 workers."
"The timing of the development is entirely at the discretion of BHPB and dependent upon BHPB’s construction workforce needs."
In its report the Town of Port Hedland said it anticipated BHP’s proposal would have "no adverse effect on the current provision of facilities and services" in town.
The Port Hedland outer harbour development is the most prominent component of BHP’s $20 billion expansion plan.