The Western Australian Government has fast-tracked its mine approval process to get projects such as Fortescue Metals Group’ Eliwana iron ore mine and rail project into construction sooner.
The Department of Mines, Industry, Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) has brought in changes which allow mining companies to begin construction in a staged manner along infrastructure corridors while access licences are still pending.
Traditionally, mining companies are required to have all land access permits granted prior to lodging environmental applications for approval.
This prevented miners from starting construction until its land access was approved along the entire corridor.
With the new changes, companies will now be able to start construction in phases along the corridors, and the state government will conduct environmental assessments while licences are pending approval.
Western Australia’s Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston stressed that these changes would not affect existing environmental, safety or heritage standards, and that construction wouldn’t be permitted to start until the mining proposal was assessed and judged to be environmentally acceptable.
“The new rules have the potential to cut months off the construction timeline for companies, which is important for creating jobs for Western Australians and growing our economy,” Johnston said.
“Environmental assessments of the whole mining infrastructure corridor will now only have to be conducted once at the start of the project, rather than on multiple occasions.
“The McGowan Government has listened to industry and investigated ways to cut red tape. These new arrangements are already being utilised by industry and are resulting in significant savings in construction schedules.”
Fortescue Metals Group was able to take advantage of these changes at the Eliwana iron ore project in the Pilbara, which celebrated its first processing of iron ore last week.
Fortescue fast-tracked the project to production, removed application duplication and experienced a shorter wait time for licences to be granted.
This allowed Fortescue to open the Eliwana mine on December 8, in line with its goal to begin processing before the end of 2020.
Fortescue is also aiming to load its first train at Eliwana before the year’s end.
Awarding $1.83 billion in contracts to Australian businesses, including 290 Western Australian businesses, and expected to create 500 jobs, the Eliwana mine and rail project is key to the state’s COVID-19 economic recovery.