18/11/2014 - 09:58

Rio Tinto’s Koodaideri project gets EPA approval

18/11/2014 - 09:58

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The Environmental Protection Authority has given conditional approval for Rio Tinto’s Koodaideri iron ore project in the Pilbara, but is cautious about the potential spread of asbestos that could result from where the mining giant proposes to construct a rail corridor.

Rio Tinto’s Koodaideri project gets EPA approval

The Environmental Protection Authority has given conditional approval for Rio Tinto’s Koodaideri iron ore mine in the Pilbara, but is cautious about the potential spread of asbestos that could result from where the mining giant proposes to construct a rail corridor.

Development of the mine, which will be located 110 kilometres north-west of Newman, includes pits, ore processing areas, waste dumps and a storage facility, as well as railway and infrastructure corridors, which will require up to 12,171 hectares of clearing within a development area of 65,888ha.

However, EPA chairman Paul Vogel said there was potential for asbestos to spread as a result of the proposal’s Western Rail Corridor crossing the Wiittenoom asbestos management area.

“Although the risk of proposal increasing the spread of asbestos in the environment is low, the EPA is taking a cautious approach by recommending a condition on asbestos management during design and construction of the rail line,” Mr Vogel said.

The proposed mine could generate up to 70 million tonnes of ore per annum and has an expected 30-year lifespan.

Mr Vogel said Rio Tinto had actively sought to avoid, minimise and rehabilitate environmental impacts through the proposal’s design.

He said the proposal was subject to 14 conditions being implemented.

“These conditions include a management plan and creation of buffers and an exclusion zone to ensure the proposal does not affect a colony of Pilbara leaf-nosed bats,” Mr Vogel said.

“The management plan and execution zones will also protect the Koodaideri Spring and the associated creek and pools that provide a near permanent source of water, which in turn will safeguard vegetation as well as habitat for the Pilbara leaf-nosed bat, northern quoll and the Pilbara olive python.”

Rio Tinto will also be required to rehabilitate the mine in an “ecologically sustainable manner” once the mine closes. 

Although Rio Tinto is going ahead with plans to develop the project, in March the miner said undeveloped projects like Koodaideri would not be required for some time, as it planned to focus on its existing mines.

It plans to save $US3 billion by pursuing brownfields expansions rather than new mines.

That being said, Koodaideri remains a major long-term growth project in the company's pipeline.

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