The Western Australia Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has recommended approval of the expansion of River Robe Joint Venture’s West Angelas iron ore mine in the Pilbara region. The approval is subject to conditions, including the protection of national park water resources and threatened ghost bats, the EPA said.

The recommendation comes after a public review process and assessment of the environmental impacts of the proposal to expand to open-cut mining at West Angels, which is owned 53% by Rio Tinto, 33% by Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and 14% by Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., by 4,100 hectares to 26,700 ha, taking it to within 2 kilometers of Karijini National Park.

The EPA recommended a condition for managed aquifer recharge to maintain groundwater levels at the Karijini National Park.

To further protect the national park from up to 12 gigaliters per year of proposed surplus water discharge into Turee Creek East, and minimize the impact on riparian vegetation, the EPA recommended conditions, including rigorous monitoring under an environmental management plan (EMP).

To offset the residual impact of additional clearing, the EPA recommended contributions to the Pilbara Environmental Offset Fund.

“This assessment work and recommended conditions constitute a comprehensive approach to management of environmental impacts, following a proactive approach by the proponent and extensive consultation with the EPA,” EPA Deputy Chair Robert Harvey said.

The EPA’s report is open for a public appeal period until May 27.

Work is expected to start later this year at West Angelas, with first ore being delivered in 2021.