08/12/2017 - 14:31

EPA approval for 80mt South Flank project

08/12/2017 - 14:31

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The environmental watchdog has given the green light for BHP Billiton’s planned 80 million tonnes per annum South Flank iron ore development, with first ore targeted in 2021.

The Yandi mine is expected to reach the end of its economic life by the mid 2020s.

The environmental watchdog has given the green light for BHP Billiton’s planned 80 million tonnes per annum South Flank iron ore development, with first ore targeted in 2021.

The South Flank/mining area C development, located 100 kilometres west of Newman, will provide replacement ore for BHP when the Yandi mine, which produces a similar tonnage, reaches the end of its life in the early to mid 2020s.

The project will include a new mine, accommodation villages and a rail spur line.

In August, BHP picked Fluor for a construction management contract at the project, after spending about $US184 million on precommitment work.

The company has flagged the middle of next year for a final investment decision on the $3 billion-plus project.

Environmental Protection Authority chairman Tom Hatton said the project would need to meet certain conditions, including to protect the area’s local ghost bat population, water management, protection of Aboriginal heritage, and emissions reporting.

South Flank is one of three major replacement projects likely to soon reach final investment decision.

EPA approval was given for Rio Tinto’s $US2.2 billion Koodaideri replacement project in 2014.

That mine would produce around 70mtpa, with development expected from 2019 and first ore potentially available from 2021.

WorleyParsons won work for the project’s feasibility phase in August.

Fortescue Metals Group’s Eliwana project, which is expected to replace tonnage from the Firetail mine, is under review by the EPA.

Last week, the company said it would be reviewing options to improve ore grades at the project moving forward.

A further major iron ore project that would bring new tonnes to market is Todd Corporation’s Balla Balla project, which would include a new mine, port and rail line with potential capacity of 55mtpa.

The company inked a state agreement with the government to pursue the project at the start of this year.

But two projects have been knocked back by the EPA.

Both Mineral Resources’ Jackson 5/Bungalbin East proposal and Sinosteel Midwest Corporation’s Blue Hills expansion plan were derailed after the EPA recommended against their approval.

That was because both are on banded iron ore formations.

MinRes’s replacement project is located 100km north of Southern Cross, while Blue Hills is about 100km east of Morawa.

Both businesses were confident that the projects could proceed, however.

MinRes chief executive Chris Ellison said at the company’s recent annual general meeting he was keen to pursue the project, with the final approval or otherwise to be in the hands of the state’s environment minister.

Sinosteel executive general manager Stuart Griffiths said in a statement in November that the company would continue research on the environmental impact of Blue Hills after the environment minister dismissed a recent appeal against the EPA’s recommendation.

“For the past five years, we’ve worked closely with the Botanic Gardens & Parks Authority to ensure we have the knowledge and supporting science to be able to restore the minimal impact our proposal will have on local flora,” Mr Griffiths said.

“The area, which is surrounded by several other mining operations, is already a mine site with existing infrastructure in place as well as several historic workings that we are proposing to rehabilitate.

“We remain committed to continuing our scientific research project for another five years with the Australian Research Council’s Centre for Mine Site Restoration.

“(We understand) the minister will consider the possible future uses of the area for tourism and recreational activities.

“However, access by the public to the Blue Hills mine area for the purposes of tourism and recreation is highly restricted due to active mining tenure and will remain so for at least the next 20 years.”

Sinosteel won an award from the Association of Mining & Exploration Companies this year for its environmental protection work rehabilitating banded iron ore formations.

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