BHP Billiton's proposed $20 billion expansion of its outer harbour project in the Pilbara has received federal environment approval, but the board's decision to proceed won't be made for several months.Environment Minister Tony Burke approved the proposed development with 37 strict conditions on Thursday.The $20 billion proposal will expand existing facilities at Port Hedland and will involve construction of a 4km-long jetty, eight new berths and other facilities to vastly increase the mining giant's export capacity.BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers was quoted in Fairfax Media on Wednesday as saying the miner did not plan to approve any big projects within the next six months because of rising production costs and falling commodity prices affecting the whole sector.Mr Burke said the proposal had the potential to create thousands of jobs."This decision shows that it is possible to apply high environmental standards to major infrastructure and resource projects and ensure potential impacts are managed and minimised to an acceptable level," he said."BHP Billiton will have to develop a plan to monitor and manage dredging and spoil disposal to protect dugongs, marine turtles and their habitat."BHP Billiton will be required to obtain an independent expert review of its plan and fund research through the WA Marine Science Institution into the effects of dredging on migratory birds, and coral and filter feeding communities in Commonwealth waters.The company will also be required to monitor local waters and must show how it will protect marine fauna from fuel and chemical spills.
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