Rio Tinto has lodged an environmental approval request with the Australian Government for the Winu copper project in Western Australia, a key step in its plan to be in production at the site by 2023.
The mining giant forwarded its action plan to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to develop a single open-cut pit mine, run-of-mine pad and haul roads to service the mine.
It also intends to build appropriate waste rock dumps and topsoil stockpiles, on top of a mixed use tailings storage facility and water supply borefield.
To support development activities, Rio Tinto also requested in its application the approval to construct an aerodrome facility to accommodate direct flights to and from Perth and other regional centres, and to build an accommodation camp.
Rio Tinto requires permits from the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority, Department of Water and Environment Regulation and the Department of Mines, Industry, Regulation and Safety to advance the Winu project.
The company has also applied to obtain a native vegetation clearing permit and mining proposal to clear the required 1418 hectares of land within a 12,398-hectare development envelope.
The company also requires consent from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Western Australia’s Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage before getting the green light, to undertake activities that may impact Aboriginal sites.
Rio Tinto has been consulting with the Nyangumarta Warrarn Aboriginal Corporation (NWAC) with regards to the Winu project, as it lies within the Nyangumarta Native Title determination and overlaps into the Martu Native Title determination.
Negotiations among Rio Tinto, NWAC and the Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation (WDLAC) are still under way as the company continues to discuss the development and findings from studies with the respective groups.
Rio Tinto discovered copper-gold mineralisation at Winu in 2017. Further exploration continues at the site, but the company has described drilling results as “encouraging” so far.