Miner queries dust impacts

Taylar AmoniniNorth West Telegraph

BHP Billiton has hit back against claims that an increase in iron ore exports will damage Port Hedland’s West End.

Despite the release of a report this month showing the economic impact of dust on West End residents and businesses, the mining giant said the extra throughput should make little difference. That report showed costs to Port Hedland stakeholders and government totalled $300 million in past and continuing losses, and more than 280 jobs lost.

BHP has submitted a licence amendment application to the Department of Environmental Regulations to expand exports by 7 per cent.

BHP general manager of port Chris Dark said although exports had increased since 2009, controls put in place had significantly improved dust mitigation and that would continue if the licence amendment was approved. “The fact is dust control at the port is improving and will continue to improve,” he said.

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“At the same time community, industry and government are working together to ensure this vital asset continues to grow and prosper and provide jobs and economic opportunity for Port Hedland and the State.”

Esplanade Hotel co-owner Con Berbatis, who commissioned the economic impact report, rejected claims that BHP had worked with businesses and said his objections had gone unheard.

“BHP has not had any form of meaningful engagement with the Esplanade Hotel,” he said. “We would welcome contact from them.”

While in the interim the DER has implemented LiDAR technology to monitor Port Hedland air quality, the technology will not be able to differentiate between iron ore dust and environmental dust.

Instead it is being used to identify potential sources of dust and the movement of dust in the air.

A spokeswoman for the department said the air-quality monitors were providing accurate measurements.

The DER has suspended a ruling on BHP’s application until an inquiry on regulatory duplication is finished.

A public comment period is being held at the same time as the inquiry.

Comments can be submitted to the department quoting reference L4513/1969/18.

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