Agency approves W Australian desalination plant

Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on 13 February 2012 announced conditional approval for Grange Resources Ltd’s proposal to construct and operate the Cape Riche Desalination Plant.

The seawater reverse-osmosis plant will supply 12 million m³ of water per year to Grange’s Southdown Magnetite Project, an open pit magnetite mine about 90 km north-east of Albany.

The desalination plant will be located about 5 km west of Cape Riche, with the seawater intake and pump station 500 m east of Cheyne Inlet. A brine outfall will be located on the south side of Cape Riche.

The plant will require:

  • 25.6 km treated water pipeline from the desalination plant to the mine site
  • 5 km seawater transfer pipeline from the intake and pump station to the desalination plant
  • 5.7 km brine discharge pipeline from the desalination plant to the outfall
  • location

  • 33 kV overhead power lines from the mine site to the desalination plant, and combination overhead/underground cable from desalination plant to seawater intake.
  • EPA chairman Dr Paul Vogel said that, given the pristine local environment, the agency had recommended a raft of conditions.

    “This proposal has the potential to impact marine fauna and habitats, marine water quality and terrestrial flora and fauna through activities including blasting to construct the intake channel and clearing of vegetation for the pipeline construction,” Vogel said. “The conditions the EPA has recommended include measures to maintain marine water quality and minimise impacts to marine habitats and fauna.”

    Conditions will also manage fauna entrapment as a result of trenching as well as prevent the spread or introduction of dieback and weed species, Vogel explained. He added that other key factors considered were the processes surrounding the decommissioning of the mine site as well as the impacts on the social surrounds.

    The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two week public appeal period, closing on 27 February 2012.