A 50-year plan touting tens of billions or construction plans for the Pilbara has been approved.A strategic mining proposal for the Pilbara, by resources giant BHP, has been recommended for approval by the Environmental Protection Authority.The majority of the plans are centred around BHP’s tenements located close to Newman.

BHP Billiton Iron Ore Pty Ltd’s Pilbara Expansion-Strategic Proposal sets out the miner’s operations in the region for the next 50-100 years, including new iron ore mines, the expansion of existing mines and associated infrastructure.

BHP Billiton Iron Ore is expanding its operations in the Pilbara to meet the increased global demand for iron ore.

The Company’s Western Australian Iron Ore Growth Master Plan is to more than double current production to 350 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) with an ultimate objective of 450 mtpa in the longer term.

In support of its plans, the Company is seeking a regional strategic environmental assessment for its proposed future mines and associated infrastructure developments in the central Pilbara that will support its growth and maintain its production levels in the longer term.

To help achieve this, BHP Billiton Iron Ore is investigating many new mine developments and supporting infrastructure, including bringing new ore bodies into operation from the Company’s existing sites.

Its export targets will require the development of many new and existing mining operations and associated infrastructure.

Whilst at this stage, detailed engineering has not yet been undertaken for any of the elements of the Strategic Proposal, it will typically include infrastructure used in Pilbara iron ore operations including crushers, conveyors, ore-handling and screening plants, stockpiles and train load-out facilities, rail loops, workshops, warehousing, concrete batching plants, administration facilities, refuelling facilities, lay down and storage areas, power and water distribution infrastructure, waste disposal, wastewater treatment, dangerous goods and hazardous materials storage facilities, water treatment facilities and surface water management infrastructure.

Beneficiation facilities with associated tailings dams may also be proposed for some operations.

Road and rail networks to access these operations and allow the transportation of ore will also be required.

A range of related supporting infrastructure will also be required which may service any number of operations including but not limited to, worker accommodation, water and gas pipelines, power lines, access roads, telecommunications, airports or helipads and water bores.

Transport of ore from a number of the proposed future operations will require the construction of rail spurs linking the activities to the Newman to Port Hedland rail line.

Similar to current operations, conveyors may also be used to link next activities or different tenements within operations.

The Strategic Proposal also encompasses potential capacity upgrades of the Newman to Port Hedland rail line, from the Newman rail hub to the 26km chainage mark near Port Hedland.

This mark represents the boundary of the proposed BHP Billiton Iron Ore Outer Harbour development rail spur (the Western rail spur) connection to the Newman to Port Hedland mainline (approved in Ministerial Statement 890). Collectively, these operations and associated infrastructure broadly define the scope of the Strategic Proposal which is the subject of this referral.

The indicative land clearance for individual greenfield operations is expected to range between approximately 3,000 to 9,000 hectares (ha), with a cumulative total of about 95,000 ha over the life of the growth plans contained in the Strategic Proposal.

Linear infrastructure corridors for pipelines, road, rail and power lines are typically 80 – 100 m in width, although not all this area is cleared.

Proposed mine and infrastructure plans will be optimised and land clearance area defined during detailed design studies.

Timeframe

This Proposal will run for the life of the Growth Master Plan. Therefore, no specific timeframe is to apply to this Proposal, given the operations will be progressively developed over at least 50 years.

Details of any staging of the proposal BHP Billiton Iron Ore proposes that future proposed operations comprising the Strategic Proposal will be developed sequentially.

The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period, closing 23 July 2018. Appeals can be made at www.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au.

The Minister for Environment will make the final decision. EPA Report 1619 is available at www.epa.wa.gov.au.