EPA Approval to Expand Iron Ore Mine
US iron ore miner Cliffs Natural Resources has been given the all-clear from the Environmental Protection Authority to expand its existing Yilgarn iron ore mine, north-east of Southern Cross, subject to strict conditions.
The company’s local subsidiary plans to mine its F Deposit, involving the production of nine million tonnes of ore over three years, by developing three open-cut pits, waste rock dumps, roads and supporting infrastructure.
EPA chairman Tom Hatton said the proposal had undergone rigorous environmental impact assessment, with the independent board carefully considering six submissions received during the public review period.
The EPA concluded the environmental impact of the proposal could be managed, subject to 11 conditions.
“The EPA’s concerns with this proposal have been addressed, with the proponent reducing the size and configuration of the mine pits throughout the assessment process,” Dr Hatton said.
“Modifications to the proposal also include staging the development of the project.”
Dr Hatton said stage one of the proposal would include the development of the central mine pit (F2) and the southern mine pit (F3).
These pits would be connected by a mine access road, after which it would be rehabilitated.
The establishment of a rare plant, Tetratheca erubescens, on previously disturbed areas must be successful before stage two — the development of the northern mine pit (F1) — can begin.
Other conditions required by the EPA include management plans to avoid impacts on native flora, measures to ensure the stability of the pit wall during mining and post-closure, and an offsets plan.
The EPA’s report to Environment Minister Albert Jacob is now open for a two-week public appeal period, closing on Tuesday, September 27.
Ore from Koolyanobbing is crushed and blended at a plant on-site and then transported by rail for shipment to Asian markets through the port of Esperance.
Last year Cliffs shipped 11.7 million tonnes and reported a $US26/t cash production cost in the December quarter.
Cliffs has been operating the mine since 1993 and put Koolyanobbing on the auction block in mid-2014.
BGC Contracting was awarded a five-year $520 million contract extension in January which will take Koolyanobbing out to 2022.
As recently as March, Cliffs chief executive Lourenco Goncalves said the Cleveland-based company was still hopeful of finding a buyer, saying he would prefer to park the assets in a bigger company to protect its local workers.
Yilgarn Iron Producers Association chief executive David Utting said the EPA approval was the second significant news for the region in a week after Chris Ellison’s Mineral Resources submitted its plans for a mine in the Helena Aurora Range.
“The companies employ a combined 3000 direct and indirect workers and make a significant contribution to the WA and regional economies,” he said.
MinRes’ submission is open for public comments until October 31.
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