21/12/2017 - 12:57

Dawson approves Sinosteel, rejects MinRes

21/12/2017 - 12:57

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The state government has today approved Sinosteel Midwest Corporation’s iron ore expansion project east of Geraldton, while simultaneously rejecting Mineral Resource’s planned iron ore mines in the Helena-Aurora Range, after the environmental watchdog had recommended both should be blocked.

Dawson approves Sinosteel, rejects MinRes
Stephen Dawson said Sinosteel's proposal posed a relatively small additional impact to the Mungada Ridge. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The state government has today approved Sinosteel Midwest Corporation’s iron ore expansion project east of Geraldton, while simultaneously rejecting Mineral Resource’s planned iron ore mines in the Helena-Aurora Range, after the environmental watchdog had recommended both should be blocked.

Sinosteel is planning to expand its mothballed Blue Hills project on the Mungada Ridge.

Phase one of Sinosteel’s development produced 9 million tonnes over a five-year period with the next phase expected to produce 10 million tonnes per annum for 25 years.

The company said the expansion would create 130 direct jobs and around $20 million in state royalties.

In June, the Environmental Protection Authority said that the banded iron formations were highly bio-diverse ranges set in predominantly flat landscapes and amongst the oldest landforms on earth, providing specialised habitats for plants, animals and ecological communities.

However Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the proposal posed a relatively small additional impact to the Mungada Ridge.

Sinosteel is subject to a number of conditions including a detailed environmental management and monitoring  program, suitable rehabilitation and decommissioning and offsets to counterbalance the impacts of the proposal.

"Today's decision follows a rigorous environmental assessment process, public consultation and agreement across relevant government agencies that the Blue Hills project should proceed,” Mr Dawson said

"I am confident the strict conditions imposed on the proposal will ensure environmental impacts will be minimised while allowing this job-creating project that is beneficial to the local community to proceed."

Sinosteel executive general manager Stuart Griffiths said it was a positive result.

“The people of Geraldton and surrounding communities, Sinosteel and taxpayers across the State will all benefit from today’s decision,” he said.

“Since this government was elected, it’s been adamant it would support business and industry in WA and today is testament to cabinet’s vision and progressive outlook.”

MinRes’ planned Jackson 5 and Bungalbin East iron ore project comprised the construction and operation of two new mines and associated infrastructure about 100 kilometres north of Southern Cross.

The proposal would have extended the life of MinRes’ Carina mining hub, which currently employs more than 400 people, by using it to process and load iron ore from the two new mines.

However Mr Dawson found that the economic and social benefits did not outweigh the identified environmental impacts of the proposal, which was planned within the Helena-Aurora Range.

In June the EPA rejected the MinRes proposal, saying that more than 20 species of subterranean fauna that are only known in the region might be impacted by a mine, while the flora species Tetratheca aphylla would also be affected.

MinRes said in a statement to the ASX that the company was disappointed with the decision.

“This decision is disappointing for MinRes and will be particularly so for the local Yilgarn community and businesses who have supported us since our operations commenced in 2010,” the company said.

“The decision will also negatively impact the wider State as it will bring an end to the material revenue the Yilgarn operation contributed to State coffers in the form of royalties, port fees and general economic activity.”

MinRes had forecast the creation of nearly 100 direct jobs during the construction phase and 585 jobs while in operation.

However the company said the government’s decision would not have a material impact on the company’s business due to the declining demand for low grade iron ore.

The government also announced it was investigating its options to create a class A reserve over the Helena-Aurora Range.

Conservation Council of WA director Piers Verstegen praised the decision.

“We congratulate Minister Dawson and the McGowan government for upholding the EPA’s advice against mining in this unique place, and for signalling an intention to see the area permanently protected,” he said.

MinRes said it will redeploy some of the 425 workers in Yilgarn but could not confirm a precise number. 

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