AN additional 50 million tonnes per annum of port space at Port Hedland is one step closer to being realised, following conditional approval by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
The EPA recently released a report detailing its recommendations for the development of new multi-user iron ore export facilities in the Pilbara to provide additional facilities to the North West Iron Ore Alliance (NWIOA), comprising Atlas Iron, Brockman Resources and FerrAus (now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Atlas).
The key infrastructure of the proposal included two rail connections, a rail loop and train unloader; a stockyard at Boodarie; a 6.2km conveyor connecting the stockyard to the wharf at South West Creek; and two shipping births and one ship loader at Stanley Point in South West Creek.
The project had an estimated life of 50 years or more. The proposal for the port development was a crucial factor in the expansion plans of Atlas, which had an allocation of 31.5mtpa of new port space, following its takeover in 2011 of FerrAus; the remaining 18.5mtpa was allocated to Brockman.
While Brockman had yet to outline its plans to move the iron ore from mine to port, Atlas has detailed a growth program targeting the expansion of its production base from 15mtpa to 46mtpa, through the expansion of its North Pilbara production, development of its South East Pilbara resources and further expansion of its logistics chain, including port and rail enhancements. The EPA stated that it considered the proposal could be managed to meet its environmental objectives, provided the NWIOA met specific environmental conditions, primarily relating to damage or loss of mangrove habitats. The report stated: “These [mangrove] communities will be impacted by the proposal due [to] the location of the stockyard and rail loop at the fringe of the inter-tidal zone and the elevated trestle conveyor which traverses several creeks and terminates at the proposed berth and ship loading facility in South West Creek within the Inner Harbour.” The EPA therefore recommended that mangrove clearing be limited to 4.5 hectares, with no additional direct or indirect impacts outside the proposal footprint.
It suggested an elevated trestle conveyor to transfer the iron ore from the stockyard to the rail loop in order to reduce the loss of mangroves. The NWIOA would also need to monitor noise and dust levels and submit separate proposals to the EPA for rail connection and the supply of water for the operation. The EPA’s report was open for public appeal, following which it would be presented to Environment minister Tony Burke for his consideration.
By Rachel Seeley