The West Pilbara Iron Ore Project ("WPIOP") is one of the largest independently owned undeveloped direct shipping iron ore projects in Australia and, once developed, will be a material contributor to seaborne iron ore supply. The project is a long-term staged project involving new mine, rail and port development. Current development is focussed on Stage 1 of the project, which is based on CID iron ore deposits located 30 km to 85 km south west of Pannawonica. In September 2015 an update to the Stage 1 Ore Reserve estimate was released, increasing the estimate to 780Mt (a 75% increase). The Ore Reserve estimate reflects a 72% conversion of the Measured and Indicated Stage 1 Mineral Resource, which was released in June 2015. There is potential for considerable further growth with a total JORC Resource of 2,686Mt across the extensive tenement portfolio in the Pilbara.
Project Definition and Status
A Feasibility Study for Stage 1 was previously completed in June 2010 and revised in August 2012. An updated Definitive Feasibility Study ("DFS") was commenced in early 2015 based on the expanded Mineral Resource base. This includes a revised mine schedule (with a 0.75;1 strip ratio) for an initial 20 year mine life including 18 years at 40Mtpa after a 2 year ramp-up period with::
- Mining of ten channel iron deposits located on the western region of the Hamersley Ranges to produce a blended CID fines product through a Central Processing Facility ("CPF");
- A heavy haul railway from the CPF to a new deep-water port at Anketell Point (approximately 245km); and
- Train unloading, iron ore stockpiles and ship loading facilities at the port location.
Due largely to the prevailing iron ore market conditions, the project participants have decided to defer the previously targeted completion of a DFS by mid-2016, however, key project approvals and areas of potential value enhancement will continue to be pursued.
Mine and Plant Description
WPIOP is developing an optimised mining and blending schedule for the Ore Reserves identified for the Stage 1 mine development. Ore will be mined from the ten Stage 1 deposits in relative shallow open pits at for four hubs:- North, Central, South and Buckland Hills. The mining methods will utilise proven open pit drill and blast, load and haul techniques.
The Stage 1 infrastructure will be designed to facilitate blending operations, via a CPF, as proposed in the mining schedule. This CPF will primarily use conventional dry crushing and screening equipment to produce a consistent direct shipping West Pilbara Fines product throughout the life of the Stage 1 mine.
Infrastructure and Logistics
Anketell Point has been identified by the WA State Government as a preferred location for new deep-water, bulk loading port for the Pilbara.
The initial development contemplates the construction of a 20km deep-water channel to allow capesize vessels up to 250,000dwt to depart the port fully laden.
A causeway and jetty will be required to transport ore from the mainland to the ship loader.
Stockpile facilities will enable the ore to be stored once unloaded from trains arriving via the 245km rail line, from the CPF at the mine site area. Train marshalling yards and maintenance facilities are also planned adjacent to the new port.
To enable the mine to produce at least 40Mtpa of iron ore fines, additional project infrastructure is required including an airstrip to provide Fly-In-Fly-Out personnel services, quality village accommodation, connection to the Dampier to Goldfields gas pipeline to provide supply to an on-site power station and a bore field to deliver both process and potable water.
Environmental, Native Title, and Heritage approvals processes are well advanced, with the following achievements to date:
- Stage 1 Mine and Rail environmental approval received from the Federal & State government during 2011;
- Anketell Port environmental approval received from Federal and State government during 2013;
- State and Commonwealth environmental approvals received in 2013 for Hardey mine and rail;
- The process undertaken by the Western Australian Government for land tenure to be utilised for Anketell Port has progressed towards finalisation, following signing of the Notice of Intention to Take (NOITT), during 2014. The NOITT includes agreement of Native Title with the Ngarluma People. The Western Australian State Government commenced three Notices of Intent to Take Land;
- Native Title Agreements with the Kuruma Marthudunera and Puutu Kunti Kurrama & Pinikura people which cover all Stage 1 deposit areas have been signed by the parties;
- Mining Leases have been granted over 8 of the 10 Stage 1 deposits;
- State and Commonwealth environmental approvals covering a majority of the Stage 1 mining areas have been received; and
- Heritage surveys are well advanced across the mine and rail.