The company stated that the SEA is the first of its kind in the Australian mining industry and gives an overview of the regional environmental footprint of all of the company’s current and potential future Pilbara-based iron ore operations.
Edgar Basto, asset president at BHP Billiton Western Australia Iron Ore, said that the company had been operating in the Pilbara for almost 50 years and understood the environmental impacts of its operations in the region.
He added: “We are proud to be the first mining company to use our environmental knowledge to prepare and submit a strategic environmental assessment in Australia which could help build a long-term sustainable future for not only WAIO, but also the Western Australian community.
“The SEA provides greater visibility of our potential environmental footprint over the next 50 to 100 years, improving our ability, as well as the government and others in the industry, to plan for future operations. It outlines where we may develop in the future so any potential impacts on the environment can be assessed and adequately managed for future generations.”
Basto said that the company would still be required to work with relevant departments to ensure necessary approvals were sought for individual projects, but the SEA takes a look at the company’s environmental plan over the long term in a more considered and complete way.
He explained: “Previously, we worked through the approval process for individual projects in isolation. We can now look at how future developments may interact and think about what we need to do to manage any impacts in advance. It gives the company, industry, the community and regulators a more comprehensive understanding of the region, which ultimately helps everyone to more effectively manage our natural resources. It’s about being transparent in our future plans and recognising that environmental impacts are not confined to one particular mining project and should be looked at more holistically.”
The SEA will be made public and open for comment from March 21, and Basto said that the assessment would provide a readily available source of environmental information for others to draw on. He commented: “We expect to continue to mine in the region for more than 100 years, which enables us to give back to the communities that have supported us for so long. The SEA demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the Pilbara and our host communities over the long term.”