Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

BHP Billiton's Port Hedland Outer Harbour proposal secures federal environmental approval

Media release
30 May 2012

BHP Billiton’s proposed Port Hedland Outer Harbour project has received approval under national environment law, Environment Minister Tony Burke announced today.

Mr Burke said he had approved the proposed development, located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with 37 strict conditions after it underwent rigorous assessment.

It provides for a new port to be built in Port Hedland’s outer harbour to complement the existing port facilities in its inner harbour.

“This decision shows that it is possible to apply high environmental standards to major infrastructure and resource projects and ensure potential impacts are managed and minimised to an acceptable level,’’ Mr Burke said.

“BHP Billiton will have to develop a plan to monitor and manage dredging and spoil disposal to protect dugongs, marine turtles and their habitat.

“The plan will require review and endorsement by an independent technical expert and no dredging can begin until I have approved it.

“The company will also fund research through the Western Australian Marine Science Institution into the effects of dredging on migratory birds, and coral and filter feeding communities in Commonwealth waters.’

“During construction strict exclusion zones, avoidance measures and ‘soft start’ procedures for any underwater piling will also apply, to safeguard threatened and migratory marine species. BHP Billiton must continuously monitor local waters to make sure that no whale is nearby before noise from piling begins. It must also show how it will protect marine fauna from fuel or chemicals spills and vessel strikes.

“These safeguards show how much can be achieved when the environment is front and centre when vetting development proposals.

“The Australian Government is leading efforts through the Council of Australian Governments to minimise regulatory burden for industry in environmental assessments and approval but remains committed to maintaining high environmental standards throughout this reform process.”

The multi-billion dollar proposal has the potential to create thousands of jobs and dramatically expand Australia’s capacity to export iron ore.

The first phase of the Outer Harbour Development will include the construction of a four kilometre jetty, an eight-berth wharf, a 32 kilometres departure channel and landside infrastructure, including stockyards and a rail spur.