Pilbara iron ore skyrail gains EPA approval

Artist rendering of the BOTS at a river crossing

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved Mineral Resources’ plan to develop a ‘skyrail’ to transport iron ore through the Pilbara.

The company proposed the Pilbara Bulk Ore Transportation System, or “BOTS”, to transport the ore from the Iron Valley mine approximately 90km northwest of Newman, to the Port Hedland Inner Harbour, The West Australian reports.

It is expected to replace the use of road trains.

The system will operate as an elevated railway – with less of an impact on the local environment – and will be autonomously monitored from a control centre in Perth.

Its power cars will use a dual fuel (diesel and gas) generation system to transport the ore.

Mineral Resources said the elevated design would “result in minimal impact to water flows” and plans to rehabilitate areas that have been disturbed during construction.

They will also use existing rail infrastructure, including rail maintenance tracks, camps, and water abstraction bores for the project to further minimise environmental impacts.

EPA chairman Dr Tom Hatton said they tested the company’s proposal against four major environmental factors – including flora and fauna vegetation – before issuing their recommendation.

He added that the new rail system would involve less land clearing compared to traditional haulage rail systems.

The EPA report is open for a two-week public appeal period, ending October 3, before the environment minister to makes the final decision.

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