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Environmental approval granted for BHP's South Flank iron ore project

Western Australia's environment protection authority, or EPA, gave conditional approval to BHP Billiton Group for the development of its open-cut South Flank iron ore project in Western Australia.

The proposal included development of the mine as well as construction of an overland conveyor, exploration, and construction and operation of associated infrastructure.

In its report, the EPA said the company needs to preserve the priority ecological communities at Coondewanna Flats and the Weeli Wolli Spring, protect the ghost bat population, implement a plan to safeguard the aboriginal cultural heritage, report greenhouse gas emissions, and offset the loss of native vegetation and fauna.

The company's plan includes the clearing of 16,257 hectares of native vegetation, according to the Dec. 8 report.

The EPA recommended that BHP make a monetary contribution to the Pilbara environmental offset fund, as well as fund additional studies on troglofauna in the Pilbara.

The report has been released for a public appeals period lasting two weeks, which will close Dec. 22, after which a final decision will be taken. The South Flank project is designed to replace the 80 million tonnes that will be lost from the Yandi deposit in the next five to 10 years.