Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has recommended the expansion of an iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region for environmental approval, subject to several conditions such as the protection of national park water resources and threatened ghost bats.
Robe River Mining Co Pty Ltd is proposing to develop the West Angelas C, D and G iron ore deposits to sustain production at the existing West Angelas iron ore operations, located approximately 130 kilometres northwest of Newman.
Rio Tinto has a 53 per cent holding in the Robe River Joint Venture, Mitsui holds 33 per cent and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation holds the remaining 14 per cent.
Mining of the C, D and G iron ore deposits would involve the additional clearing of up to 4,310 ha of native vegetation within a mine development envelope of 26,400 hectares.
The EPA’s recommendation to the Western Australian Environment Minister follows a public review process for the EPA assessment of environmental impacts of the proposal, to expand open-cut mining at the West Angelas mine site.
After roundtable discussions regarding the impact to Karijini National Park of pumping up to 14 gigalitres annually (GL/a) of groundwater for the proposal, the EPA has recommended a condition for Managed Aquifer Recharge to maintain groundwater levels.
To further protect the national park from up to 12 GL/a of proposed surplus water discharge into Turee Creek East and to minimise the impact on riparian vegetation, the EPA recommended conditions including rigorous monitoring under an environmental management plan (EMP).
The EPA recommended additional conditions in the EMP and for rehabilitation to occur under an updated mine closure plan to minimise the impacts of clearing native vegetation and other disturbances to habitat for conservation-significant fauna.
To offset the significant residual impact of additional clearing (including to the West Angelas Cracking Clay Priority Ecological Community, riparian vegetation, and disturbance to threatened species including the ghost bat) the EPA also recommended contributions to the Pilbara Environmental Offset Fund.
EPA Deputy Chair, Robert Harvey, acknowledged ‘the scientific rigour of the environmental assessment work and conditions to ensure there are no groundwater drawdown impacts on Karijini National Park, and to limit impacts to surface water flow and quality’.
“This assessment work and recommended conditions constitute a comprehensive approach to management of environmental impacts, following a proactive approach by the proponent and extensive consultation with the EPA,” he said.
The Minister for Environment will make the final decision on the recommendation for approval.
The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is currently open for public appeal until 27 May 2019.
EPA Report 1635 can be found here.