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Mineral Resources innovation in Environmental protection

Protecting and monitoring the animals in their natural habit before any mining commences is extremely important to Mineral Resources. The baseline monitoring of endangered species is part of a pre-mining commitment to develop and implement a Northern Quoll Monitoring Plan.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 Cth (EPBC Act) which is Australia’s national environmental law, makes sure that nationally significant animals, plants, habitats and heritage places are identified, and any potential negative impacts on them are carefully considered before changes in land use are approved.

MRL’s Environment team are testing an integrated camera trapping system to undertake baseline fauna assessment for the Northern Quoll at the Bungaroo South project in the West Pilbara.

The Challenge
There are challenges monitoring in remote areas, like the West Pilbara, ahead of any mining activities. As there is no infrastructure in place, it is difficult to support and maintain the equipment in the field for extended periods. Normally, to maintain field equipment and recover and change data cards would require a monthly visit, which is not only impractical, it exposes personnel to risks in the field.

Leaving equipment unattended in the field means that the team have no way of knowing if the equipment is faulty between deployments, which runs the risk of “losing” valuable baseline data. In addition, there is a large amount of work to review the data collected and, if the cameras are not located appropriately, there is a significant time lag, as it will take longer to collect the baseline data.

Some of the other key challenges are maintaining a remote power supply to all the equipment in extreme weather conditions and establishing stable communication to allow telemetry (collection of measurements) to be sent to Perth without any supporting infrastructure.

Northern Quoll

The Solution

Our Project Services division teamed up with Phoenix Environmental and, together, they used existing technologies associated with surveillance and communication to establish real-time monitoring in the field. The equipment was recently tested in Western Australia’s South West prior to mobilisation in the field in October.

All images were relayed to a central base station and captured some of the local wildlife common to the region. This has allowed the team to fully test the equipment and refine the set-up prior to deployment in the Pilbara.

This project is designed to increase the amount of data collected in a more cost-effective way and in “real time” while also increasing the long-term observations of various species for MRL.

Jarrad Clark, director of Phoenix commented “The system is going to generate a lot of data. What’s really exciting for me is that as images are received at our server new entries will be created in a custom-built spatially enabled database with a web-based user interface, ensuring consistent and efficient data management, but also enabling long-term trends to be identified, and we can set data volume triggers, linked to the Buckland Management Plan objectives that can initiate a management response via alerts”.

It is very early days in the trial and, if successful, will provide an innovative step to remote monitoring of significant fauna associated with Mineral Resources mining activities.