The Environmental Protection Authority has cleared the way for a threefold expansion of Andrew Forrest’s Solomon iron ore mine which would see it remain in production for the next 35 years.
But Western Australian authorities have raised concerns that a new field of water bores needed for the production could affect Hamersley Gorge, which is 4km south of the mine, in Karijini national park.
Under the worst-case scenario, the report said, based on extracting 12 gigalitres of water a year for 30 years, there could be a 12% drop in the amount of water flowing into the gorge.
The Solomon iron ore project is made up of two mines, Firetail and Kings, in the Hamersley Ranges about 1,500km northwest of Perth. It is 60km from Tom Price, the nearest town.
The expansion approved by the EPA would require the clearing of an additional 12,146 hectares of native vegetation, on top of the 6,313 hectares cleared for the existing mine.
The area to be cleared includes six hectares of Brockman iron ore cracking clay, a threatened ecological community and a habitat used by the endangered northern quoll and Pilbara leaf-nosed bat and vulnerable Pilbara olive python.
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