Iron ore project step closer

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Ben Har­vey and Tom Zaun­mayr

Con­fi­dence in the Pil­bara’s two big­gest towns is set to get a shot in the arm as a ma­jor new iron ore project moves closer to re­al­i­sa­tion.

New Zealand’s Todd Cor­po­ra­tion is poised to sign a State Agree­ment with the WA Gov­ern­ment that will pave the way for the Balla Balla project be­tween Port Hed­land and Kar­ratha.

If re­alised, the project would cre­ate more than 3000 jobs dur­ing con­struc­tion and 900 dur­ing pro­duc­tion.

The project ul­ti­mately in­volves build­ing a six mil­lion to 10 mil­lion­tonnes-a-year iron ore mine near Whim Creek and a 160km rail­way to link stranded iron ore de­posits to a new port.

Pil­bara Re­gional Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Tony Fri­day said he trusted the State Gov­ern­ment would do the right thing in en­sur­ing the Pil­bara got max­i­mum ben­e­fits out of the new de­vel­op­ment should it go ahead.

Mr Fri­day said there would be fierce op­po­si­tion to the en­ter­tain­ment of a largely fly-in, fly-out model.

“We have to make sure, of course, that those work­ers com­ing to op­er­ate this par­tic­u­lar fa­cil­ity will be liv­ing within re­gional pop­u­la­tion cen­tres,” he said.

“I’d like to think the State Gov­ern­ment has learnt a lot, that there will be a greater de­gree of so­phis­ti­ca­tion from a State Gov­ern­ment that will end up

recog­nis­ing you can’t strike an agree­ment that stays static for half a cen­tury.”

Mr Fri­day said while news of a new iron ore de­vel­op­ment was good, the re­gion should not lose fo­cus on work­ing to di­ver­sify the econ­omy and cre­ate sus­tain­able in­dus­try.

In­dus­try ob­servers be­lieve de­vel­op­ment of the prin­ci­pal Balla Balla deposit, which com­prises dif­fi­cult-to-process mag­netite ore, would re­quire iron ore prices to con­tinue out­pac­ing fore­casts of $US50 a tonne.

How­ever, the State Gov­ern­ment be­lieves the jewel in the project is the rail­way and port, which could un­lock bil­lions of tonnes of haematite iron ore de­posits fur­ther in­land which now have no way of get­ting to mar­ket.

Todd Cor­po­ra­tion, which counts the Balla Balla deposit in a vast in­vest­ment port­fo­lio span­ning en­ergy, min­er­als and health care, has been build­ing its Pil­bara re­source base for years.

Last year, it took over iron ore hope­ful Ru­tila Re­sources and has se­cured a ma­jor­ity stake in Flin­ders Mines.

State De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Bill Marmion wel­comed the step as “great news for the Pil­bara”. “(It) will pro­vide a huge boost for the re­gion in terms of jobs and con­fi­dence,” he said. “This project shows that there is still great in­ter­est and in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in the WA re­sources sec­tor.”

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