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Decision keeps Hope Downs alive

A SUPREME Court win by BHP Billiton over third party access to rival iron ore operator Down Holding BV is unlikely to cause the project punters to turn their backs on the region.

Speaking to WA Business News earlier this week, Hope Downs Management Services project director Russell Tipper indicated it was all systems go, with everything starting to fall into place.

Rather than wait for the outcome of the court decision, expected within days, Hope Downs last week engaged Salomon Smith Barney as strategic and financial adviser for the joint venture project.

By year’s end it is expected to have a financial proposal on the table for partners Hancock Prospecting and South African iron ore producer Kumba Resources Ltd to consider.

“Kumba will hopefully have given approval by Christmas,” Mr Tipper said.

And not even building a 324 kilometre-long rail line and port project for Port Hedland is likely to put a dent in the project.

“Going forward, we are saying to our advisers to use the base case, which includes a new railway line,” Mr Tipper said.

While the WA Government has been taking a back seat during the rail access dispute, it has provided first stage approval for a new railway.

The Environmental Protection Authority has indicated it had no objection to the railway line. The company still needs to get through the public submission process, and receive approval from Environment Minister Judy Edwards and the State Development Minister Clive Brown before the rail line can go ahead.

Mr Tipper played down the significance of the EPA approval.

“It is simply ticking another box and going through a process,” he said.

If the boxes continue to get ticked, Hope Downs will be only the second producer of Marra Mamba ore to market the product as a separate item to suppliers.

It will follow the lead of the West Angelas mine, which was commissioned earlier this year by Robe River Iron Associates, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto.

Located 100 kilometres west of Newman, this is the first Marra Mamba ore body to be marketed as a stand-alone product.

Marra Mamba ore is considered higher in calcined iron and lower in gangue components compared with most other hematite and pisolite ores from Australia.

West Angelas will need to do a hard-sell job on Japanese buyers, who traditionally have been loath to use the Marra Mamba iron ore, dubbed as the next generation of Australian iron ore.

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