Fortescue Metals Group has received a positive recommendation from the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for the approval of its Eliwana iron ore project in the Pilbara.
The EPA examined the $US1.3 billion ($1.8 billion) project’s proposed infrastructure, including processing and water management facilities, temporary and permanent waste landforms, and tailings storage facilities.
It also conducted an environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the proposal, which included a four-week public review with additional time for key stakeholders following a request by Native Title holders.
The environmental conditions set out by the EPA for the project covered six key areas, including inland waters; social surroundings (including areas of cultural significance to Aboriginal people); flora and vegetation; air quality; terrestrial fauna; and subterranean fauna.
EPA chairperson Tom Hatton noted several vulnerable or endangered species indigenous to the area that Fortescue would need to consider.
“Our environmental impact assessment found there would be a significant impact from the clearing of 7900 hectares of vegetation as part of the proposal, which is habitat for the northern quoll, ghost bat and Pilbara olive python,” Hatton said.
“The EPA has recommended the proponent offset this impact through a contribution to the Pilbara Environmental Offsets Fund and it has also recommended the creation of management plans to minimise impacts to surface water, groundwater, flora and vegetation and native animals.”
The EPA has sent its recommendation to the WA Minister for Environment Stephen Dawson, who will make his final decision following a two-week public approval period.
Eliwana is scheduled to achieve first production in December 2020. The project will use advanced technologies to help maintain a minimum company production of 170 million tonnes a year over the next 20 years and underpin Fortescue’s low-cost output.