BHP Billiton and CSIRO have partnered to create a five-year, jointly funded A$5 million marine research program which fill focus on exploring the riches of the World Heritage Lister Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.
According to the joint media release by BHP and CSIRO, the research program, which is set to commence in early 2015 – will include both deep and shallow reef research, turtle and shark tagging, a PhD scholarship scheme and opportunities to engage the local community, including BHP Billiton Petroleum employees, in Exmouth, WA.
The partnership between the two parties was announced in Perth on Thursday by Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane, CSIRO Executive Director Environment, Dr Andrew Johnson, and BHP Billiton Petroleum General Manager, Doug Handyside.
Mr Handyside said the joint project would help the oil and gas industry to better understand the reef and help target conservation efforts.
“We are dedicated to ensuring the knowledge on which we base our operational decisions is entrenched in science. The partnership between CSIRO and BHP Billiton supports this valuable scientific research to provide baseline data on the condition of the ecological values of the reef, which will allow assessments over time to determine any changes,” Mr Handyside said.
“This enables us to uphold our commitment to operate in the most environmentally responsible manner possible.”
Dr Andrew Johnson from CSIRO said the research would help scientists gain better understanding and knowledge to manage increasing and varied uses in the Ningaloo region.
“Our research presence at Ningaloo is now entering its tenth year, so we are very aware of the reef’s many uses – it is the way we manage and balance these different uses which is key to sustainable development,” Dr Johnson said.
“We intend to work closely with the Exmouth community throughout the project, to understand their needs and to build their knowledge of the local marine environment.”
The new marine research comes after the successful BHP Billiton Petroleum investment in the Ningaloo Atlas Research program, and builds on CSIRO’s decade-long shallow coral reef and fauna research and turtle tracking using satellite and acoustic technology.
The funding from BHP Billiton – which amounts to A$2.6 million of the total cost of the project – forms part of the company’s voluntary community contributions and is not linked to any statutory requirement or licensing conditions.
“Our environmental commitments go beyond our operational footprint to support areas of national and international conservation significance, aligning with our company’s strong focus on sustainability,” Mr Handyside said.