FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Value to the community

How many local jobs does the Port of Port Hedland support?

Of the approximately 11,000 people working in the Port Hedland region, about half (5000) are employed as a direct result of the Port’s activities, according to modelling conducted by respected economic forecaster Acil Allen. In dollar terms, the Port’s activities generated $418.4 million in direct economic output and $585.9 million in indirect economic output for the Town of Port Hedland in 2015-16. This is real money that flows through the community – supporting businesses who employ thousands of people in Port Hedland and providing for the town’s long term growth and sustainability.

For further information regarding the economic benefits of the Port of Port Hedland Supply Chain click here.

How important is the Port to the Australian and Western Australian economies?

The total economic contribution of the Port Hedland Port Supply Chain to the Western Australian economy is $26.4 billion. This level of economic contribution supported 59,015 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs in the Western Australian economy in 2016-16. To put this in perspective, the economic output from the Port’s supply chain is worth about the same as the entire WA construction industry. The employment generated is equal to around one in every 20 FTE jobs in the State.

The Port of Port Hedland’s supply chain generated $4.6 billion in State and Federal tax and royalty payments in 2015-16. This is money that goes into schools, hospitals and other essential services.

For further information regarding the economic benefits of the Port of Port Hedland Supply Chain, click here.

If the Port continues to grow, what is the upside for the community?

The projected growth forecast for the Port of Hedland Port estimates that an additional 1,500 local jobs per annum will be created. This will make Port Hedland a more attractive place for our young people to live and work and underpin the development of our community’s economic and social infrastructure, which will benefit everyone who wants to live here.

Forecasts reveal the potential growth over the next 10 years could also add $37 billion in economic output for the Australian economy, $11 billion of which would be realised in the Pilbara region. this economic growth will be felt most strongly in Western Australia, where it is forecast to contribute a 2.5% increase in wages growth for all West Australians.

For further information regarding the economic benefits of the Port of Port Hedland Supply Chain, click here.

What is exported through the Port Hedland Port?

While iron ore continues to be the dominant commodity exported through Port Hedland, other exports important to the regional economy are salt, manganese, copper concentrates and livestock. Industrial tourism has also seen cruise ships visiting Port Hedland and emerging technologies are likely to drive further diversification of commodities over the next decade. With the construction of at least two  Lithium projects close to completion, Lithium will soon be added to the list of commodities exported from the Port of Port Hedland. All of which highlights the strategic importance of the Port Hedland Port in continuing to deliver economic growth for the Nation, the State and the people of Port Hedland.

Air Quality

What is dust?

Dust is a general term used to describe microscopic solid particles suspended in the air. Dust particles are typically categorised into different size classes:

  • Total suspended particulates (TSP) – refers to particles that remain suspended in the air.
  • PM10 refers to particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than 10μm.
  • PM5 refers to particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5μm.

It is well recognised nationally and internationally that the most common metrics for measuring air quality is particulate matter (PM), specifically PM10 and PM2.5. This refers to the size in aerodynamic diameter measured in micrometres (μm).

The composition of dust can vary from location to location. In cities dust tends to be dominated by small particles from combustions sources, such as vehicle emissions. In regional areas, combustions sources are less concentrated, and dust tends to be dominated by larger particles.

What are the key sources of dust in Port Hedland?

The Pilbara region is a semi-arid environment. This naturally arid environment is a significant contributor to ambient dust levels in the Port Hedland Air Shed.

There are several factors influencing dust levels in Port Hedland including:

  • Weather conditions – hot, dry conditions for most of the year, result in high levels of evaporation and regrowth after wildfires can be limited until seasonal rainfall.
  • Natural bushfires – bushfires hundreds of kilometres away can impact the Port Hedland Air Shed.
  • Port activities – bulk material storage and handling.
  • Other particles – pollen, sea spray /salt and other particles
  • Weather events – resulting in naturally occurring dust storms. Wind patterns can result in dust being carried across the town and out to sea and the same particulate matter be blown back across Port Hedland with the change of wind direction.
  • Exposed areas subject to prevailing winds – e.g. the Spoil bank, mud flats and urban activities including land development activities in the town, and other non-industry activities including road dust and vehicle emissions.
  • Light industrial /commercial activity – e.g. scrap metal processing, abrasive blasting etc.
How is Air Quality regulated in Port Hedland?

In Western Australia, Industry is regulated by the Department of Water and Environment Regulation (DWER) under the Environmental Protection Act 1986.

Each individual operator is regulated under Part IV or Part V environmental issued by DWER. The regulator sets out the requirements for individual operators to manage, monitor and report on dust levels in line with individual operator licences.

Individual operators implement a range of dust mitigation activities to ensure regulatory requirements are met. In line with this, individual operator requirements and dust mitigation activities vary.

In addition to regulatory requirements, industry established the Port Hedland ambient air quality monitoring network (the Network) in 2010 to monitor the Port Hedland Air Shed.

The Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce specified an interim guideline of 24-hour PM10 of 70 μg/m3 (+ 10 exceedances to accommodate natural events) at Taplin Street to maintain the coexistence of industry and the community.

The Network is maintained and operated by an independent dust monitoring specialist Ecotech.  PHIC reports on the Network annually, providing scientific data to the government Taskforce and relevant State Government departments and Ministers.

Is industry meeting regulatory requirements in Port Hedland?

PHIC member companies are meeting their individual licence requirements and remain committed to continuous improvement of dust and noise emissions.

Port operators within Port Hedland operate a series of boundary monitors to provide real-time data that assists with the identification and management of dust emissions from each individual operator. Port operators also use this data to identify background sources of particulate matter, including from other port operators.

These boundary monitors do not form part of the PHIC air quality network. Boundary monitoring is undertaken to assist in premises management not regulation, and therefore is not reported external to the company operating the premises.

In addition to monitoring, operators have implemented a variety of dust mitigation activities. While the activities of each operator vary, some of these dust mitigation activities include:

  • Moisture controls of product during storage and handling – belt wash stations, wet scrubbers, fogging units, water sprays on stockpiles sprinkler systems.
  • Engineering controls – infrastructure that reduces emissions including sealed roads, transfer station chutes predominantly enclosed, ship loaders fitted with chute covers.
Why are PM10 levels for Port Hedland higher than that set for urban environments?

The composition of dust in Port Hedland is significantly different to an urban environment. In cities dust tends to be dominated by smaller particles, largely from combustion sources. In Port Hedland the composition of dust tends to be dominated by larger particles. In 2010, the Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce set interim PM10 guidelines for Port Hedland. As such, the Port Hedland ambient air monitoring network is assessed according to the Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce Dust Management Plan – interim PM10 guideline.

This interim guideline has been specified by the Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce to maintain the coexistence of industry and the community. The Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce 2016 Report to Government has recommended the current 24-hour PM10 of 70 μg/m3 (+10 exceedances to accommodate natural events) continues to apply to Taplin Street in Port Hedland.

Monitoring

What is being assessed by Port Hedland’s ambient air quality monitoring network?

The Port Hedland ambient air quality monitoring network (the Network) consists of eight monitoring stations.

Monitoring sites reported on include Taplin Street, BoM, Kingsmill, Neptune, Richardson Street, South Hedland, Wedgefield and Yule.

The stations measure a combination of PM10, PM2.5, meteorological conditions (wind speed, wind direction and temperature) and oxides of nitrogen (reported as NO2).

The ongoing operation of the Network provides valuable information on air quality within the Port Hedland Air Shed.

The data collected from the Network is reported to the Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce and has informed the Government of Western Australia’s Department of Health Port Hedland Air Quality Health Risk Assessment for Particulate Matter January 2016 (HRA) and the Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce 2016 Report to Government.

It should be noted that both the harbour and hospital monitoring  stations predate the establishment of the PHIC Network. While the hospital monitor is shown on the PHIC live monitoring website,  it is not officially part of the PHIC network and is not reported on in PHIC’s annual report.

The harbour monitor was recently switched off as it is no longer compliant with the Australian Standard. This activity was undertaken in  consultation with DWER and in line with a scheduled process.

Who maintains the Port Hedland ambient air quality monitoring network?

PHIC established the Network in 2010 and continues to provide oversight including data verification, storage and publication of annual reporting on the ambient air quality monitoring program. The Network is maintained and operated by  a third party  specialist dust monitoring provider.

PHIC’s annual reports and real-time data are available to the public at on the PHIC website here.

PHIC is working with the government and the community to ensure the information provided by the Network is trusted by the community.  PHIC’s submission on the 2016 Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce Report suggests the DWER operate and maintain the Network.

Why should the community trust the ambient air quality monitoring network?

While industry funds the Port Hedland monitoring network, it is operated by consultants Ecotech (a specialist dust monitoring provider). Further, PHIC reports to the Taskforce, predominantly comprised of government representatives on an annual basis.

PHIC works with government and the community to ensure stakeholders trust the monitoring data of the air quality monitoring network. But we also acknowledge that members of the community have indicated industry monitoring and reporting on itself raises concerns with the independence of the data.

As part of PHIC’s submission on the Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce 2016 Report to Government, PHIC suggested that this objective may be more achievable if the DWER operate and maintain the Network.

Government’s response to the report is eagerly awaited by industry and the community alike.

Meteorological Conditions and Dust Outcomes

To what extend does the weather impact dust outcomes in Port Hedland?

Meteorological conditions play a significant role in the dispersion and generation of dust emissions in and around the town of Port Hedland.

The Pilbara region is an arid environment experiencing subtropical climatic conditions. Dry conditions and strong winds will result in a higher level of dust emissions from both industry and natural sources.

The dust emissions will also have a greater radius of impact during periods of stronger wind speeds due to dust remaining suspended in the air for longer periods and therefore being carried further distances.

The prevailing wind conditions during the wet and dry seasons of northern Australia can be variable.

The variability in the wind speed and wind direction in Port Hedland will result in variation of dust emissions and in the areas potentially affected by dust.

Wet conditions assist in the suppression of dust.

What is the predominant wind direction in Port Hedland?

Real time monitoring reveals the predominant wind direction in Port Hedland is from the northwest and southeast quadrants. Winds from the southwest/ northeast quadrants are less common, however, can occur on occasions.

The seasonal wind patterns are characterised by climatic drivers. Spring and summer (wet season) the winds are generally from the northwest quadrant. During autumn and winter (dry season) the winds are predominantly from the southeast quadrant.

Does wind direction impact dust outcomes in Port Hedland?

The direction of the wind determines where particulates in the atmosphere will travel. Another factor that influences particulates is the wind speed – low wind speeds reduce dispersion which can result in increasing concentrations of particulates while high wind speeds, which can increase the rate of dispersion, also results in wind erosion from open areas such the spoil bank.

Unseasonal or unusual wind patterns can impact can result in a variation to average seasonal dust outcomes.  The classic example are the iconic dust storms that occur in the Pilbara when air from the base of a storm pushes dust upwards creating a wall of dust.

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