PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved plans by mining major Rio Tinto to expand opencut mining at its West Angelas mine, in the Pilbara.
Rio, and its joint venture partners Mitsui and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, in October last year approved a $579-million spend to develop deposits C and D at the existing West Angelas operations, to help sustain the production of Rio’s Pilbara blend.
The expansion would extend the West Angelas operation to within 2 km of the Karijini National Park, with the EPA saying this week that it had recommended the project for approval, subject to conditions including the protection of national park water resources and threatened ghost bats.
The EPA has recommended a condition for managed aquifer recharge to maintain groundwater levels, and to further protect the national park from up to 12 GL/y of proposed surplus water discharge into Turee Creek East, and minimise the impact on riparian vegetation, the EPA recommended conditions including rigorous monitoring under an environmental management plan (EMP).
Further conditions in the EMP, and for rehabilitation under an updated mine closure plan, are recommended to minimise 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 recommended contributions to the Pilbara Environmental Offset Fund.
“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,” EPA deputy chairperson Robert Harvey said.
The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period, closing May 27.