BHP's environmental licences in the Pilbara town of Newman will be tested by the state government. 

The WA Government has announced it will review the environmental licences of two BHP mines - Mount Whaleback and Eastern Ridge, which are 1km and 5km from Newman, respectively. 

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) will look at dust sources, emissions, pathways, management measures and historic monitoring results.

“In this instance we've certainly noticed there are some higher levels of PM10 dust in the Newman area, and that's the primary driver for reviewing the licences,” says DWER director of industry regulation, Ed Schuller. 

PM10 dust is any that contains particles less than 10 microns in diameter, which can be inhaled.

The review covers licences that regulate ore processing.

“Under the licence conditions for BHP, they're required to do monitoring — they have four monitoring sites in the town which run 24/7, 365 days a year, and they report that to us on an annual basis,” Mr Schuller said.

“We'll review parts of the site which are under the licence and review what is occurring at the moment, what is possible, and form a decision based on that to likely amend the licence.”

The department will examine risks posed to the local community and any controls it may be able to implement.

However, the Shire of East Pilbara wants a health risk assessment to be undertaken for the residents of Newman.

Shire president Lynne Craigie says it is a very dusty place to live.

“We're really happy to see the report has come back and it's told us that what's in that dust is not harmful,” she told the ABC.

“I guess the next step for us now is to look at how much dust we have in town and does that pose a health risk.

“Whether all that dust is attributable to mining or also we live around lots of unsealed roads and lots of dusty areas, so I guess we can't point the finger at exactly who is responsible, but just let's see how much dust is too much dust and what we can do to mitigate some of that.”

A BHP spokesperson said the company is “committed to spending close to $80 million in capital and more than $150 million in operating costs over the next five years as part of the Newman Air Quality Roadmap to identify new air quality opportunities and implement dust mitigation work and projects at BHP's Newman West and Newman East mine sites”.