PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Western Australian government has approved mining major BHP’s long-term plans for its Pilbara iron-ore operations, which includes a potential 11 more iron-ore projects over the next 50 to 100 years.
BHP's 'Pilbara Expansion Strategic Proposal' details a cumulative picture of the miner's planned and potential operations across the Pilbara including mining operations, rail, storage areas, dams and associated mine infrastructure.
“This is a major job-creating plan for Western Australia that has the potential to deliver tens of thousands of jobs for local Western Australians,” Premier Mark McGowan said on Friday.
"We expect this Australian-first plan will reduce environmental approval times by up to 50%, while maintaining the highest environmental standards.
“Industry has been crying out for this type of plan. It recognises the need to reduce unnecessary 'green tape' to increase investor confidence, and pave the way for more jobs.”
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has previously approved the strategic proposal, with conditions.
“The EPA gave BHP's strategic proposal careful consideration, including considering the impacts to fauna, flora, surface and ground water, air quality, landforms and social surrounds,” said Environment Minister Stephen Dawson.
“Strategic proposals allow the EPA to take a bigger picture view of the potential environmental impacts the proposals may have, considering the cumulative impacts rather than on a case-by-case basis, as individual mines or developments are proposed.”
BHP has welcomed the approval, with Western Australian iron-ore asset president, Edgar Basto, saying that the framework would enable BHP and the state regulators to focus on effectively planning and managing environmental impacts at a regional level, and with a longer-term focus for the benefit of future generations.
While any future iron-ore projects in the Pilbara would still be subject to environmental approvals, the strategic proposal aimed to improve the efficiency of future assessments, streamlining the approvals process, reducing red tape, and increasing investment confidence.
“The state government’s approval of the strategic proposal provides BHP with confidence to plan for the next 100 years of development in Western Australia, and with that flows substantial investment, jobs and other benefits to the local economy.
"The strategic proposal outlines a potential for up to 11 more iron-ore projects in the Pilbara over the next 50 to 100 years.”
Basto noted that more than 350 separate environmental studies were undertaken to inform BHP’s strategic proposal, each of which were independently peer reviewed prior to submission and assessment by the EPA.
He added that decisions on production volumes and the development or execution of future greenfield or expansion projects would remain an independent commercial decision, which would be separate from the strategic proposal.
The Western Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) has welcomed the possibility of additional employment that could be sustained by BHP’s plans for the future.
CME CEO Paul Everingham said BHP had reaffirmed its strong commitment to the state. “This proposal and resulting approval will be a game-changer in the Western Australian resources sector.
“Under BHP’s proposal, we are potentially looking at another 11 new iron-ore projects in the Pilbara, which will significantly improve our economy and enhance local communities.”