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The Yannarie Solar Project: Design of a Solar Saltfield in Western Australia to Safeguard the Natural Environment

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Pages :
10 - 18

Mottershead R. and Davidson P.
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The Northwest Coast of Western Australia is the location for a number of large solar saltfields.
More than 10 million tonnes of high grade solar salt is exported annually from these saltfields;
predominantly servicing the chloralkali industries of Northern and Southeast Asia.
Straits Resources Limited is a mining company with operations in Australia and Indonesia. It
has identified the solar salt industry as an opportunity to diversify its resource portfolio and
build a longer-term position within the resource sector. Access has been approved by the
Government of Western Australia to a large area in the eastern Exmouth Gulf region of
Western Australia suitable for a solar saltfield with an ultimate capacity as high as 10 million
tonnes per annum.
All new resources projects in Australia must proceed through a rigorous environmental
approval process at both the Federal (Commonwealth) and State Government levels.
Straits commissioned a team of saltfield design, environmental and engineering consultants
to design an economically viable saltfield that minimises impacts to the environment. There
has been a series of iterative changes in its design based on feedback from environmental
and cultural heritage studies. This has enabled the saltfield to be specifically located within a
defined footprint to avoid sensitive areas such as mangroves, tidal creeks and algal mats.
Comprehensive studies have been undertaken on the local marine and terrestrial flora and
fauna (including migratory bird and marine fauna), together with surveys for cultural heritage,
soils, hydrology and a sweep of other parameters including hydrodynamic modelling of the
marine environment. A commercial trawling fishing industry operates in the waters of
Exmouth Gulf that is also the permanent home or on the migratory path of a number of
significant marine fauna, including whales, turtles, and dugongs.
The project, known as the Yannarie Solar Project, is progressing through the environmental
approval processes of the Australian Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments.
The conclusion is that the technical findings of the suite of studies that examined the
environmental aspects of the engineering requirements of the saltfield provide a sound basis
for project approval. Assuming that approval is given, and the current schedule maintained,
construction would commence in 2008 and shipments of salt in 2011.

solar saltfield, Yannarie, environment, Western Australia