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Pilbara iron ore skyrail gains EPA approval


The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved Mineral Resources’ plan to develop a ‘skyrail’ to transport iron ore through the Pilbara. The company proposed the Pilbara Bulk Ore Transportation System, or “BOTS”, to transport the ore from the Iron Valley mine approximately 90km northwest of Newman, to the Port Hedland Inner Harbour.

The BOTS design, which will replace the need for road trains, includes an elevated structure that is mounted onto precast concrete beams, spanned between precast concrete substructures. Purpose-designed power cars and wagons will use a dual fuel (diesel and gas) generation system to transport the ore. The project, which also includes supporting infrastructure, will be autonomously monitored from a Perth-based control centre. Mineral Resources said the elevated design would “result in minimal impact to water flows” and plans to rehabilitate areas that have been disturbed during construction.

They will also use existing rail infrastructure, including rail maintenance tracks, camps, and water abstraction bores for the project to further minimise environmental impacts. EPA chairman Dr Tom Hatton said they tested the company’s proposal against four major environmental factors – including flora and fauna vegetation – before issuing their recommendation. He added that the new rail system would involve less land clearing compared to traditional haulage rail systems.

The EPA report is open for a two-week public appeal period, ending October 3, before the Environment Minister Albert Jacob makes the final decision.