The mining industry is a significant part of Australia's economy. When companies have multiple operations in the same region, environmental approvals can be complex. This strategic assessment streamlines approvals for BHP's iron ore operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA), while ensuring that environmental values are properly considered and protected. It was approved and finalised in June 2017.
Strategic assessments are a collaboration between the Australian Government and an assessment partner. This collaboration allows for a big-picture approach to safeguarding protected matters from the impacts of development over a long time.
The BHP in the Pilbara (WA) strategic assessment on this page is finalised. This means the Environment minister approved certain activities within the strategic assessment area. The partner must now undertake these activities in line with the endorsed program.
The partner must also continue to report to the Australian Government until 2117 that the program's requirements are being implemented.
BHP Billiton (now BHP) was the first non-government strategic assessment partner.
This assessment considered the impacts on protected matters from BHP's operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, including:
- developing and operating new iron ore mines
- building infrastructure to support mining
- expanding existing iron ore mines
- managing the environment during mining
- closing and rehabilitating mine areas.
The strategic assessment covers BHP's iron ore operations in the Pilbara, including the rail link to Port Hedland. Figure 1 shows this area.
The BHP Iron Ore Pilbara Strategic Assessment Program (the Program) sets the rules for how BHP must protect the environment, including the:
- northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus)
- greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis)
- Pilbara leaf-nosed bat (Rhinonicteris aurantia)
- Pilbara olive python (Liasis olivaceus barroni)
- ghost bat (Macroderma gigas).
A strategic assessment gives long-term certainty for the company by streamlining environmental regulatory requirements. It ensures the protection of environmental and heritage values by delivering:
- a strategic, coordinated approach to offset management
- environmental protection outcomes.
Signed agreement and terms of reference
On 18 September 2012, the Environment minister and BHP signed an agreement to begin a strategic assessment, in line with Section 146 of the EPBC Act.
Agreement (PDF 1.73 MB)
Agreement (DOCX 2.07 MB)
The strategic assessment agreement also includes the terms of reference, which detail how the strategic assessment partner is to assess the impacts of their proposed development activities.
This agreement was updated in October 2015 to include new mining tenures.
Variation to the Agreement (PDF 841.62 KB)
Variation to the Agreement (DOCX 743.08 KB)
Program and impact assessment report
BHP prepared 2 documents for the Environment minister to assess:
- The BHP Iron Ore Pilbara Strategic Assessment Program detailed BHP's proposed mining activities and environmental protection outcomes.
- The impact assessment report assessed the impacts of BHP's proposed mining activities and the suitability of proposed environmental management actions.
The public comment period for the draft report and program ran from 21 March to 2 May 2016.
Read the Impact Assessment Report and Program on BHP's website.
Endorsement and approval of the strategic assessment
On 11 May 2017, the Environment minister endorsed BHP's program.
Endorsement notice (PDF 343.05 KB)
Endorsement notice (DOCX 80.78 KB)
BHP Billiton Iron Ore Pilbara Strategic Assessment Program (PDF 3.7 MB)
BHP Billiton Iron Ore Pilbara Strategic Assessment Program (DOCX 7.27 MB)
On 19 June 2017, the minister approved BHP's actions to develop iron ore mines and supporting infrastructure in the Pilbara. BHP must implement the endorsed program when it undertakes the approved actions.
The minister considered the strategic assessment findings when they made the approval decision.
Approval notice (PDF 3.63 MB)
Approval notice (DOCX 91.48 KB)
Before beginning a new activity that may have impacts on protected matters, BHP must consider:
- any public comments on the activity
- how it will avoid, mitigate or offset impacts to protected matters.
BHP must also report annually on any activities that aren't likely to have impacts on protected matters.
Every 5 years, BHP must review the program's implementation. These reviews will check:
- the program's effectiveness
- whether BHP has met agreed objectives for each protected matter
- whether the program's implementation framework (Assurance and Offsets Plan) needs revising.
These reviews will also identify whether BHP's activities may have a significant impact on any recently listed threatened species within the strategic assessment area.
The minister must approve any revisions to the Assurance and Offsets Plan before BHP can begin further development. The public can comment when BHP revises the Assurance and Offsets Plan.
In December 2022, BHP completed it’s 5-year review of the program and sought approval for revisions to the Assurance and Offsets Plan. In January 2023, the department’s response to BHP’s 5-year review was provided to the Minister for the Environment and Water in a Recommendation Report.
Recommendation Report (PDF 2.13 MB)
Recommendation Report (DOCX 1.89 MB)
The department and the Minister for the Environment and Water recommended BHP make further revisions to the Assurance and Offsets Plan and on 16 April 2023 the Assurance and Offsets Plan (version 2) was approved for implementation.
Get in touch
Contact our Referrals Gateway team:
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: 1800 423 135 between 9 am and 5 pm Canberra time.