Western Australia sees growing momentum for new generation of iron ore miners

first_imgEngineering company Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) has been appointed to undertake the crucial engineering pre-feasibility study on building two berths in the inner harbour at Port Hedland, Western Australia. The port berths, which are being developed by the North West Iron Ore Alliance (NWIOA), are integral to the evolution of the next tier of iron ore miners, providing a practical and cost-effective way for them to export their product. SKM will undertake the study in conjunction with management consultants Evans & Peck and will form the heart of the engineering pre-feasibility study, which is due to be completed in early December.  Construction of the port is due to be finished in 2013.SKM will examine a range of design options, infrastructure alternatives and locations. The port will comprise two berths at South West Creek in Port Hedland’s inner harbour with a combined annual capacity of 50 Mt. The NWIOA currently comprises four member companies – Atlas Iron, Brockman Resources, BC Iron, and FerrAus. Their combined planned production could generate up to A$200 million a year in State Government royalties, which could help fund vital services such as hospital beds and classrooms. This diversification in the Pilbara iron ore industry will also create thousands of jobs.NWIOA chief executive Dr Justin Walawski said the start of the prefeasibility study was a key milestone in the development of WA’s next band of iron ore producers. The cost and availability of ship-loading facilities had always been a major hurdle for smaller iron ore miners, which now had a feasible solution as a result of joining forces.Walawski said that with the port project now well on track, the onus was on the owners of railway lines in the Pilbara to provide third-party haulage on their networks. “The award of this engineering contract highlights the rapid progress being made by the NWIOA in its bid to ensure WA’s next tier of iron ore miners has access to the infrastructure which will be crucial to the industry’s diversity and success. It is time for the iron ore majors to co-operate with the emerging iron ore producers because it is in the best interests of the State to maximise utilisation of the existing rail networks on a fair, transparent and commercial basis.“The next tier of iron ore miners stand to deliver vast amounts of revenue and thousands of jobs. This is a compelling reason to ensure rail infrastructure is made available to third party proponents in accordance with the obligations under the State Agreements.”Walawski said the Barnett Government had shown strong support for the NWIOA port development, as had the Port Hedland Port Authority, and now the project’s standing had been further enhanced with the appointment of a globally-respected engineering firm in SKM. SKM has worked on several major Pilbara iron ore projects, ranging from the study phase to construction. These projects include export facilities at Port Hedland, Cape Lambert and Dampier. Evans & Peck has a long track record of providing studies and development support to port authorities and governments around Australia.The appointment of SKM and Evans & Peck to conduct the engineering pre-feasibility study follows the recent appointment of the ANZ as the NWIOA’s financial advisor.In another coup, NWIOA has recruited former Federal Liberal MP Ian Campbell as chair. Campbell, who was a senior minister in the Howard Government, will lead the Alliance as it begins this crucial prefeasibility study. He Campbell has extensive experience in the development of major resource projects and related infrastructure. As a Minister in the Department of Transport he was responsible for the multi-billion-dollar AusLink Infrastructure Fund and as Environment Minister he led the approvals process for Fortescue Metals Group’s Cloud Break iron ore project, the expansion of the Burrup LNG plant and the first stage of the Gorgon LNG project. His other political posts have included Minister for Human Services, a Member of Cabinet’s Expenditure Review Committee, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and Manager of Government Business in the Senate.Campbell is a non-executive director of ship builder Austal and software provider ASG Group and is Chairman of the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children Foundation.Campbell has maintained an extensive network of state, national and overseas contacts spanning the political and financial spheres as well as specialists in a wide range of fields. His network will prove invaluable to the Alliance as it seeks to negotiate with rail infrastructure providers, political leaders, bureaucrats, prospective financial backers and special interest groups in the lead up to construction of the port.Campbell said he was delighted to be playing a leading role in a project which is vital to not only the iron ore industry, but also to the national interest. “The Alliance is at the centre of the next tier of Pilbara iron miners and I plan to use my experience and contacts to help ensure its members secure the support and infrastructure they need to take full advantage of the vast opportunities they have. These companies are already playing a crucial role in diversifying the Pilbara iron ore industry, a factor which will become even more vital to Australia if BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto complete their proposed iron ore merger. By ensuring that the port, rail and other services are in place, the Alliance can increase the speed and ease with which the member companies can start exporting iron ore, creating thousands of jobs and generating millions of dollars of royalties in the process.”last_img

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