Development of BHP’s Western Australia Iron Ore South Flank mine started in late 2018. But the planning process to protect biodiversity at the site had been underway since 2010 when a population of ghost bats was identified in the area.
Ghost bats were originally listed as a Priority 4 species (rare, near threatened and other species in need of monitoring) in Western Australia, and in 2016 were listed as a Matter of National Environmental Significance under Australian federal legislation.
BHP collaborated with two environmental consultancies, three universities, two government departments and 14 mining companies during the eight-year research program.
Some novel monitoring approaches were used to determine bat numbers and status, such as genetic and hormonal analysis of bat faecal material. The study data was used in applying the mitigation hierarchy, to firstly avoid, then mitigate potential impacts and, if necessary, compensate for potential environmental impacts that can’t be avoided.
The South Flank disturbance area was revised, reducing impacts to ghost bat caves by almost 25 per cent. BHP have halved the potential impacts to caves used as daytime roosts and for breeding, and retained an additional 173 hectares of habitat for feeding and constructed two artificial roosts.
BHP have spent about A$2.5 million on ghost bat projects at the site, including the ecological studies and artificial roosts, and have publicly released the study outcomes.
BHP will continue to make this information available and collaborate with others to support the species in the Pilbara.