10/09/2008 - 22:00

Diversity in mining projects

10/09/2008 - 22:00

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The iron ore, nickel and gas sectors have grown to dominate new investment in Western Australia's resources sector, but there continues to be substantial investment in other mineral sectors across the state.

The iron ore, nickel and gas sectors have grown to dominate new investment in Western Australia's resources sector, but there continues to be substantial investment in other mineral sectors across the state.

New projects are being developed in commodity sectors as diverse as molybdenum, vanadium, diamonds, copper, mineral sands, and even gold, which for many years was synonymous with WA mining but is now less prominent.

In relation to diamonds, Rio Tinto's Argyle underground development is under construction. Completion is expected in 2009 at a capital cost of $1.5 billion.

Rio Tinto has previously mentioned that within three years when open-pit operations cease, the mine will have a production capacity of 20 million carats from its underground operations. The mine is expected to close in 2018.

Other activity in WA includes Windimurra Vanadium Ltd's $175 million Windimurra Vanadium project in the Mid West, due for completion later this year.

The Windimurra mine contains one of the largest reported proven vanadium ore reserves in the world with current mineable reserves of 79 million tonnes at a bulk grade of 0.47 per cent vanadium pentoxide, which will underpin an initial mine life of 20 years at the proposed mining rate of 3.9mt per annum.

Reed Resources is also looking to get into the vanadium sector having undergone a pre-feasibility study for its $265 million Barrambie vanadium project.

In the molybdenum sector, Moly Mine Ltd's $1.1 billion Spinifex Ridge project is in the pipeline.

The company is aiming to complete full project financing during the second half of this year and anticipates achieving financial close should due diligence be successful later this month.

Moly has developed plans for the first 10 years of operations, the permitted mine life, and for 23 years, for the reserve life of the project.

In August, the company gained environmental approvals for the mine's development.

The biggest challenge facing Moly, like an increasing number of project developers, has been securing funding for its project.

It has been forced to push back the planned start date after the tightening of equity and debt markets stymied its earlier attempts to lock-in funding.

The $100 million upgrade of the titanium dioxide pigment plant in Kwinana is set for production to increase by up to 50 per cent by 2012.

The Tiwest Joint Venture is a joint venture between Tronox Western Australia Pty Ltd and subsidiaries of Exxaro Australia Sands Pty Ltd.

Tiwest is a mining and processing company established to extract ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene and zircon from a mineral sands deposit at Cooljarloo.

These and other projects are among the 36 advanced energy, mining and minerals processing projects in WA, valued at $47.85 billion, according to figures from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Nationally there were 41 advanced metals mining projects in Australia, collectively valued at about $25.7 billion, with about half of these projects located within WA, comprising 90 per cent ($22.3 billion) of the estimated total capital expenditure.

Nine metal mining projects, including seven iron ore, one gold and one copper project, account for almost 85 per cent ($19.5 billion) of committed metal mining in Australia

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