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BHP undertakes long-term biodiversity assessments prior to new operations. One of the inputs into the regulatory approvals to develop the South Flank Mine at Western Australia Iron Ore was a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) that considered our Pilbara footprint for the next 50 to 100 years.

Subterranean invertebrate fauna – microscopic animals called stygofauna and troglofauna that live in small spaces below the ground’s surface – were identified as species that could be impacted by mining and mine dewatering activities. These fauna show high species diversity and localised occurrence, so detailed mapping of subterranean habitats and fauna, including a collaborative modelling project between BHP and Australia’s national research agency, CSIRO, was undertaken to assess potential impacts and appropriate management actions to avoid or minimise those impacts

The ghost bat (Macroderma gigas) was identified as another species potentially impacted by the development of the mine. The ghost bat was listed as a ‘Matter of National Environmental Significance’ under Australian Federal legislation in 2016. A comprehensive research program with government departments and universities has been underway since 2010. Research has included the use of novel technologies, such as 3D laser mapping of caves, infra-red lit high-speed video and genetic analysis of scat materials. In FY2018, the program introduced the use of the Motus (www.motus.org) wildlife tracking system radio telemetry, its first application in Australia. The data obtained from these studies has been used to mitigate impacts to the species, through modification of mine plans to reduce potential disturbance to ghost bat colonies and the construction of two artificial roosts ahead of mine development in the coming year. BHP’s long-term investment in understanding this species will contribute to broader scale management of this important species in the Pilbara.

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