WA environmental watchdog backs BHP iron ore expansion

BHP’s plan to develop the South Flank iron ore project in the Pilbara has been recommended by the state’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

The miner decided to launch development of the South Flank project in June by approving an initial $US184 million ($244 million) investment.

South Flank, which will leverage and expand the existing Mining Area C hub, is BHP’s preferred option to replace production from the ageing Yandi mine when it reaches the end of its economic life next decade.

EPA chairman Tom Hatton said the proposal had been assessed against the backdrop of the rate and scale of development in the Pilbara and environmental values in the region.

“We found the Southern Flank proposal could proceed if certain conditions are met,” Dr Hatton said.

“The authority has recommended conditions that would require; implementing measures to maintain the local Ghost Bat population; ensuring water management associated with the proposal does not impact on the environmental values of Weeli Wolli Spring and Coondewanna Flats; a requirement to report on greenhouse gas emissions and the continued implementation of a cultural heritage management plan to minimise impacts to sites of Aboriginal significance.”

BHP’s initial funding for the $US3.2 billion South Flank project is expected to generate hundreds of construction jobs and provide opportunities for WA suppliers.

The project will be submitted for board approval in mid-2018, with first ore targeted in 2021 and ramp-up timed to coincide with the ramp-down of Yandi.

According to the EPA, the project includes clearing 16,257 hectares of vegetation for an open-cut mine, associated mining infrastructure, an overland conveyor, accommodation villages, and the construction and operation of a rail spur.

“The Pilbara Environmental Offset Fund is currently being established by the state government and it is recommended in the conditions that BHP makes a contribution to the fund for the residual impacts on Ghost Bat habitat and the clearing of native vegetation,” the EPA added.

The South Flank project is around 100km north-west of Newman in the Pilbara.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.