A plan by resources giant BHP to create mines, expand projects and provide tens of thousands of jobs in Western Australia’s Pilbara region over the next 50 to 100 years has been approved by the state government.
BHP’s Pilbara Expansion Strategic Proposal details the planned and potential operations including mines, rail, storage areas, dams and associated infrastructure.
The Environmental Protection Authority has backed it with strict conditions, including a cultural heritage management plan, a mine closure plan and contribution to a fund to compensate for any residual effects.
“This is a major job-creating plan for WA that has the potential to deliver tens of thousands of jobs for local West Australians,” Premier Mark McGowan said on Friday.
“It is another sign our economy is improving with the major miner taking a long-term view of its proposals in the state.”
Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the Pilbara held immense environmental value and a focus of the EPA assessment was to ensure the proposal did not significantly affect areas such as the Karijini National Park and Fortescue Marsh.
“The EPA gave BHP’s strategic proposal careful consideration, including considering the impacts to fauna, flora, surface and ground water, air quality, landforms and social surrounds,” Mr Dawson said.
WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Chris Rodwell said blockages and inefficiencies with environmental approvals were consistently highlighted as concerns in the sector.
“A more strategic approach to environmental approvals will provide more certainty for project proponents, unlock investment opportunities and make it easier to boost jobs at a time when we have the second highest unemployment rate in country,” he said.
WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Paul Everingham said BHP described it as a “game-changer” for the resources sector.
“We are potentially looking at another 11 new iron ore projects in the Pilbara, which will significantly improve our economy and enhance local communities,” he said.