Mine Site Irrigation to Sow Crops in Pilbara


The Warrawagine Cattle Company will use excess water from the nearby Woodie Woodie manganese mine to irrigate a variety of crops, including sorghum, maize, and oats 

The Warrawagine Cattle Company will use excess water from the nearby Woodie Woodie manganese mine to irrigate a variety of crops, including sorghum, maize, and oats.

The 38-hectare pilot site is part of the Western Australia Government's multi-million dollar Pilbara Hinterland Agricultural Development Initiative (PHADI), which is investigating the economic potential for irrigated agriculture in remote locations across the Pilbara region.

There a plans for three pivots and the crops are expected to be used for cattle feed for the station and potentially biofuel for the mining industry.

The Department of Agriculture and Food's Chris Schelfhout, said after an initial "hiccup" at the trial site with regard to access to water, they are now back on track.

"We had an interesting lesson learnt," he said.

"There was a little bit of a hiccup there for a while, in that the mine ceased their dewatering operations, but fortunately has now recommenced.

"I guess it highlights the close linkages between agriculture and mining [in this project].

"I was pleasantly surprised though when I saw some photos today of the water flowing back down the watercourse path to our pickup point for the pilot site."

Once water reserves have rebuilt to a sufficient level Mr Schelfhout said sowing can begin.

"We're getting very close to establishing our field trials," he said.

"We are hoping to get some lucerne as one of our first crops in, then probably around September, some summer active grasses and legumes [will be sown] at that site."

While plans are progressing at the Woodie Woodie trial, a second PHADI pilot site in the region was recently canned.

"There was a second site originally proposed at Yandicoogina, but for a number of reasons that site is no longer tenable," Mr Schelfhout said.

"So we are currently exploring other options for a second pilot site in the Pilbara."

Meanwhile, two reference groups have also been formed to help guide the development of an irrigated agriculture industry in the region.

The Pathways Working Group brings together key government stakeholders, including representatives from the Departments of Water, Mines and Petroleum, Aboriginal Affairs, and the Environment.

"We want to take a whole of government approach in terms of identifying what may be barriers or constraints to agricultural development in the Pilbara," Mr Schelfhout said.

"So it's important to have all the players in the regulatory space around the table at the same time."

The second group, known as the PHADI Agricultural Resource Assessment Technical Reference Group, is intended to bring together those with an intimate knowledge about the resources available for agriculture.

"That group is really a brains trust of people with experience and knowledge of the land and water resources within the Pilbara region," Mr Schelfhout said.

"It's particularly around the water component, ensuring we've got people there with a solid understanding of the ground water, surface water and mine dewater operations in the Pilbara."

Mr Schelfhout said both groups will meet on an as-needs basis.

Source: ABC

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