Iron ore project step closer
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.”