Skyrail comes back to Earth
■ Mineral Resources has kicked off negotiations with the Barnett Government over a State Agreement for its 330km Pilbara skyrail, telling investors it expects to make a final investment in the innovative haulage platform next year.
But its engineers have also brought the so-called Bulk Ore Transport System tumbling back to Earth, abandoning plans to elevate the track on 2m to 3m pylons along its full length in favour of a more prosaic, and lower, concrete bedding for the track.
MinRes said in its quarterly production report, released last week, the design shift would significantly reduce the cost of laying the track, once tipped at up to $800 million, and would allow each wagon hauled by the system to carry 60 tonnes of ore, rather than 20 tonnes. The company said it had launched negotiations over a State Agreement for the line, which would service BC Iron and MinRes’ Iron Valley project in the southeast Pilbara, and potentially offer a route to market for other stranded iron ore juniors still holding tenements in the region.
MinRes is also believed to be moving closer to a deal with the Pilbara Ports Authority to establish a trans-shipping facility at Port Hedland, with negotiations believed to be centred on the use of Lumsden Point.
While it firms up plans for the BOTS system, Mineral Resources said last week the first of its Super Quad road trains had hit Pilbara highways late September, after Transport Minister Dean Nalder ticked off on a trial of the ultraheavy haulage vehicles.
At 60m long, the massive rigs are 6.5m longer than standard road trains that haul Pilbara iron ore.
MinRes managing director Chris Ellison said in August the Super Quads would allow it to cart 140 tonnes of ore per load, up from 108 tonnes in traditional quad-rigs, cutting as much as $5/t in haulage costs between MinRes’ Iron Valley operations and Port Hedland.