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The town of Port Hedland (Port Hedland), located in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, experiences high dust levels and receives dust from multiple sources including industrial, natural and other anthropogenic sources.

The town’s Port is the world’s largest bulk export port and includes a number of individual port facilities regulated by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) under Part V of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (EP Act). Port facilities have the potential to generate dust emissions and are classified as prescribed premises through Schedule 1 of the Environmental Protection Regulations 1987.  See DWER's fact sheet on managing dust in Port Hedland.

A health risk assessment was undertaken and finalised by the Department of Health in 2016. This investigation focused on the potential impacts on human health from PM10 inhalation by residents in Port Hedland. A central issue was whether the interim guideline of 70 μg/m3 represented a greater risk of developing dust related health conditions from dust exposure in comparison to the risk of developing health related conditions from dust exposure under the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (NEPM) standard (50 μg/m3).

The assessment concluded that for the current population size there is no discernible difference in the level of risk between the interim guideline and the NEPM standard (50 μg/m3). Therefore the interim guideline of 70 μg/m3, averaged over a 24-hour period from midnight to midnight, should provide a level of protection of health and wellbeing for Port Hedland residents equivalent to the NEPM.

In Port Hedland the following port facilities are regulated by DWER:

  • BHP Billiton Iron Ore, Port Hedland Port Operations L4513/1969/18;
  • Fortescue Metals Group, Anderson Point Materials Handling Facility L8194/2007/3;
  • Roy Hill Infrastructure, Roy Hill Port Bulk Handling Facility and Screening Plant L8967/2016/1;
  • Pilbara Ports Authority, Utah Point Multi-User Facility Bulk Handling Facility L8937/2015/1;
  • Pilbara Ports Authority, Eastern Operations L4432/1989/14; and
  • Dampier Salt Limited, Port Hedland Port Operations L7179/1997/11.

From time to time DWER receives licence amendment applications in relation to these prescribed premises. Those that require public consultation are published here for stakeholders and interested parties to provide comment. 

Recently issued or amended licences and works approvals are subject to an appeal period of 21 days from the time the applicant or approval holder is notified of the issued or amended instrument. The right of appeal is available to the applicant or holder of a works approval or licence and third parties. Recently issued or amendment licences and works approvals which are currently open for appeal are available here.

Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce

On 15 October 2018, the McGowan Government released its response to the 2016 Port Hedland Dust Taskforce Report (the Taskforce Report), which focuses on decreasing dust exposure for residents without jeopardising the industries that underpin prosperity in the Pilbara.  

In keeping with the Government’s response to the Taskforce Report, it is appropriate for DWER to build on its current regulatory approach, with the ultimate aim of improving air quality for the whole of Port Hedland (including West End), to at least achieve the interim air quality guideline in all residential areas of Port Hedland.

This planned approach incudes:

  • developing and implementing best practice dust management guidelines for bulk handling port premises, designed to reduce emissions from port operators;
  • taking control of the ambient air quality monitoring network, subject to negotiations over the configuration of the network and ensuring any incurred costs are covered by industry in accordance with the 'polluter pays' principle; and
  • implementing a coordinated risk-based reivew and assessment of all port operator licences to incorporate more robust regulatory controls in line with the best practice guidelines.

Port Hedland - Dust Monitoring Campaign

The Department carried out a five-month dust monitoring campaign in Port Hedland using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology and a network of standard dust monitors from February to June 2017 to help determine the location of dust sources and the movement of dust plumes in the air.

The monitoring campaign generated large quantities of data. DWER’s LiDAR report on its initial analysis of the data is now available. Further data analysis is ongoing, and the findings continue to inform DWER’s regulatory decision making under Part V of the EP Act.

On 15 October 2018, the McGowan Government released its response[CG1] to the 2016 Port Hedland Dust Taskforce Report [CG2](the Taskforce Report), which focuses on decreasing dust exposure for residents without jeopardising the industries that underpin prosperity in the Pilbara.

Updated 5 December 2018