TRANSPORT costs are often the maker or breaker of new mining operations throughout regional WA, a point not lost on Consolidated Minerals Limited operations general manager Terry Stark.Consolidated Minerals, with its manganese deposit at Woodie Woodie, seven hours’ drive from the closest port at Port Hedland, as well as the newly commissioned Coobina Chromite tenements, more than eight hours away from port, means the emphasis is firmly on reducing the unit costs of bring the commodities ship-side.Mine extraction costs at Woodie Woodie are already lean at $25 a tonne, including about $8 a tonne for dewatering the open-cut pits. By the time it reaches the ship, production costs have jumped to around $111 a tonne, according to company reports. Eating into the current manganese prices, the company is achieving $154 a tonne.The emphasis at Woodie Woodie is on trying to increase the payload of its trucks. Firstly by adding a further trailer to its road trains and secondly, the company is investigating the possibility of putting a new weighbridge in at the mine, which will use a different weighing approach. Combined, the two initiatives could increase the average payload on each truck by 30 per cent.A different approach is being pursued at the company’s $10 million chromite mining and milling operations at Coobina, about 60 kilometres east of Newman and a 17-hour round trip from mine to port.Consolidated is examining alternative transport options with the potential to reduce transport costs from the Chromite operation by 50 per cent.Mr Stark believes this is important because it would free up money for exploration necessary to expand its resource.The company also is currently undertaking a feasibility study into using a conveyor belt to bring both the chromite and manganese ore the kilometre or so from the group’s holding yard to the berth in Port Hedland. Currently, the annual transport costs of making the short journey is around $1 a tonne. If production targets are met, the bill will be around $650,000. Costings by both the Port Hedland Port Authority and Consolidated Minerals estimate the cost of employing a conveyor belt to the site could run at upwards of $4 million.p The reporter travelled to Woodie Woodie courtesy of Consolidated Minerals.
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