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Conditional approval for Cloudbreak Iron Ore Mine expansion in WA

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) of WA has recommended strict conditional environmental approval for Fortescue Metals Group to expand their Cloudbreak Iron Ore Mine.

The proposal, which will increase the existing open pit strip mining footprint by 8,133 hectares, will also allow ore production to increase to up to 50 million tonnes per annum.

EPA Chairman Paul Vogel said the project, which is about 120 km north of Newman, also included the development of new pits and waste dumps, the development of new infrastructure and dewatering and water disposal activities over the life of the mine, as well as an upgrade of the ore processing facility.

“In assessing this large and complex project, the EPA developed a rigorous set of conditions to ensure our environmental objectives to protect vegetation, fauna, surface water flows and groundwater quality could be met,” Vogel said.

Vogel said several ecologically important vegetation communities in the area, including the Samphire vegetation associated with the Fortescue Marsh, would be impacted.

“While the percentage impacts to the Mulga and Samphire vegetation are relatively small, these areas are important due to their good condition, for the habitat they provide for fauna and because part of the proposal falls within a proposed conservation reserve. For that reason the EPA has recommended offsets are appropriate,” Vogel said.

He said the potential cumulative residual impacts should be offset by the proponent contributing to a regional conservation initiative for the Pilbara, which will provide broader benefits to protect fauna species, including the Night Parrot and the Greater Bilby.

Restrictions have also been placed on groundwater mounding and drawdown at the fringe and within the Marsh to one metre, which is less than the natural fluctuations that occur in the Marsh.

The EPA recommended that progressive rehabilitation and successful surface water management practices are also implemented to ensure that the predicted impacts to surface water are not exceeded and the environmentally significant Fortescue Marsh remains protected.

The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two week public appeal period, closing February 22, 2012.

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