Dust from BHP mines pose health hazard, Australian union says
Regulator starts review of air quality at mining giant’s Whaleback and Newman iron ore mines in Western Australia
Melbourne — High levels of dust at two of BHP’s iron ore mines in Western Australia are impairing the health of workers and nearby residents, a union said this week, as the mining giant said it had undertaken a raft of measures to limit dust in the arid region.
The state’s environmental regulator this month started an analysis of airborne dust levels at BHP’s Whaleback and Newman mines in the Pilbara, as part of a review into the company’s licence conditions and public submissions closed this week.
The analysis will be undertaken during the second half of 2021 and could result in changes to BHP’s licence conditions. The mines are about 1,065km northeast of Perth.
In a survey of current and former residents and mineworkers who spent extended periods in the community, 80% said the dust had affected their lives, according to a submission by the Western Mine Workers Alliance.
Of those, 82% said they had experienced adverse health affects, while others said they had suffered property damage and affects to their lifestyle due to dust.
“All industry has some impact on the local environment,” said Brad Gandy, state branch secretary of the Australian Workers Union, which is part of the alliance. “The problem is how this impact is managed, and it is clear that dust emissions are at levels that seriously affect the health, wellbeing and lifestyles of the Newman community.”
BHP said in a statement that the health and safety of its employees and host communities is a priority, and that it was committed to managing dust levels in Newman.
“Air quality is complex and the majority of elevated dust events in Newman occur in conjunction with certain weather conditions,” it said.
Dust control measures across the sites include using sprays, water trucks and revegetation programmes.
BHP is spending $230m over the next five years to further improve air quality and implement dust mitigation work to keep dust levels as low as possible, it said.
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