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Dust Control in Port Hedland

As mineral exports through our port grow, the continued careful management of dust emissions will ensure a strong future for the Port Hedland community and the industry that supports it.

BHP has a long history of managing dust at our Port Hedland operations. Since our first shipment aboard the MV Osumi Maru back in 1969, we’ve come a long way.

The primary method of control used by exporters including BHP, is ensuring sufficient moisture (water) is added to the ore at the mine site to keep dust emissions to a minimum.  This process is supported by extensive laboratory testing to ensure the optimal level of moisture is always applied.

This approach, coupled with substantial improvements in the monitoring of dust emissions and investments of around $400 million in dust prevention and controls across BHP’s mine and port operations is keeping emissions in line with our regulatory requirements.

Operations at the port

While the port sees over, on average,  500 million tonnes of trade each year, 268 million tonnes of which are BHP’s exports of iron ore (2017), the last eight years have seen a significant reduction in dust events.

BHP’s General Manager of Port Operations Chris Dark believes that this has a lot to do with BHP’s ongoing dust abatement strategies, which incorporate everything from the removal of activities that have the potential to create higher levels of dust such as ore crushing, to moving stacking infrastructure and increasing the number of belt wash stations throughout the facility.

“Real time monitoring of dust levels and meteorological data, including wind direction and temperature allow us to respond quickly and determine the source of any dust issues and adjust our port operations as required,” Chris said.

“The trend shows that implementing controls such as this can actually increase throughput while still meeting our regulatory targets.”

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation stringently regulates the environmental impacts from users of the port.

Information and data regarding BHP’s dust management performance is reported to the regulator through an Annual Environmental Report, while the Port Hedland Industries Council share real time monitoring information from their network of community dust monitors.

“PHIC’s website provides real time community dust monitoring,” Chris said.

“It’s a really useful resource for people who want to see what the current dust levels are, and get a better understanding of monitoring in action.

“Working closely with regulators, PHIC and the community, we are always looking at ways to further enhance our dust mitigation strategies and ensure the best possible systems and practices are in place.”

Beyond the gate

BHP’s extensive dust abatement and management activities extend beyond the gate’ and into the Port Hedland Community with more than A$20 million invested into a range of projects in the West End.

BHP supports commercial, maritime and industrial tourism development in the West End that will drive economic development and jobs. 

“Industry and the Port Hedland township have both grown over the years and so a proactive and integrated approach to ensuring the sustainable development of our community is important,” Chris said.

“Industry and community must work together and engage in open conversations about how to ensure dust management strategies will go hand-in-hand with appropriate land use planning to secure the social and economic future of our town.

“Our commitment to using leading dust controls aimed at reducing dust generation at every point of the ore handling process – from the mine, rail and through to the Port - remains absolute.

“And we will continue to work with companies in Port Hedland, the regulators and the local community to deliver on that commitment and to continually improve the way we work together.”

BHP Dust Control Facts

The Pilbara’s high heat, areas of sparse vegetation and the coast contribute to a naturally dusty environment. To minimise industry contribution to this problem, a range of controls are employed at BHP.

These include:

• 77 Bulk Ore Conditioning (BOC) Sprays spray approximately 3L/s water over the ore on belt conveyors within the plant.

• 325 Water cannons spray up to 25L/s water onto stockpiles to prevent lift-off of dust .

• Belt Wash Stations are installed to clean any excess dust off belts themselves.

• Boom sprays are installed on all Stacker, Reclaimer and Ship loader boom tips.

• Dust collectors on site act like a giant vacuum cleaner with loose dust sucked into a chamber where water is added. Solids drop out to waste and clean vapour is vented from stack.

• Water carts used across both sites to wet down open areas and unsealed roads.

• Ongoing program to seal open areas and roads.

• Procedures to shut down plant equipment in high dust events.


A key ingredient in the control of dust is water, in itself a precious resource.

Water used for dust suppression (among other activities) is recycled on site through a dedicated fresh water recovery system. On a monthly average the BHP port operations recycle over 900,000KL of plant water – that’s nearly 11million KL per year!