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$830M metal mine expansion receives the nod to proceed

Rio Tinto iron ore mine
Rio Tinto iron ore mine

One of the world’s biggest mining companies is being recommended to proceed with its US$579 million (A$830 million) metal mine expansion.

Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is recommending environmental approval for Rio Tinto’s West Angelas Iron Ore Mine Expansion, 405km south of Port Hedland.

The project involves expanding the current open-cut mine site by 4,100 hectares (ha) to a total area of 26,700 ha by clearing native vegetation. The enlarged mine proposes to pump up to 14 gigalitres annually (GL/a) of groundwater to help the dewatering process and allow below water table mining. Hundreds of jobs are expected to be created in the process.

The approval depends on the proponent meeting conditions like protecting Karijini National Park’s water resources and ghost bats.

“The EPA has recommended a condition for managed aquifer recharge to maintain groundwater levels,” the EPA said in a public statement. “To further protect the national park from up to 12 GL/a 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.”

Rio Tinto will also be required to contribute to the Pilbara Environmental Offset Fund.

“The scientific rigour of the environmental assessment work and conditions [is intended] to ensure there is no groundwater draw down impacts on Karijini National Park, and to limit impacts to surface water flow and quality,” EPA deputy chair Robert Harvey said.

Click here to read the EPA’s full report to WA Minister for Environment Stephen Dawson who will make the final decision.

Public consultation will close on May 27.

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