A new fund to offset the environmental impacts of mining and other industry in the Pilbara has been officially launched by the State Government.

The Pilbara Environmental Offsets Fund, a pool of contributions from industry for spending on conservation projects in the region, opened for first-round applications on November 15.

About $1 million has been made available for projects under the fund in 2019-20, but that figure is expected to grow to $90 million over the next 40 years.

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson, pictured, said the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation was now calling for applications for projects such as prescribed burning, pest, plant and animal control, erosion prevention programs and mine site rehabilitation across the Pilbara.

He said the new fund would provide a “rigorous, scientific and strategic approach” to protecting the region’s environmental values. “Some people see the Pilbara as being the nation’s quarry, but it’s more than that — it is rich in biodiversity and we’ve got plants and animals here that aren’t anywhere else,” he said.

“It is important that not only do we benefit economically from the Pilbara, but that the environment benefits too.”

The fund was developed by the department, traditional owners, natural resource management organisations, conservation groups, researchers and industry, and applications will be assessed by the department with input from a dedicated reference group.

It is also expected to create more opportunities for traditional owners and rangers to work on country.

Mr Dawson said contributing companies, which included “all the big players” in the Pilbara, had embraced the fund as a more co-ordinated and transparent approach to achieving their required environmental offsets in the region.

Applications can be made via dwer.wa.gov.au/peof and close on January 20, 2020.