25/06/2008 - 22:00

Hedland port set to expand

25/06/2008 - 22:00

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Port Hedland's status as one of the world's largest bulk export ports is set to be reinforced with current and proposed developments leading to further growth in export volumes.

Hedland port set to expand

Port Hedland's status as one of the world's largest bulk export ports is set to be reinforced with current and proposed developments leading to further growth in export volumes.

The Port Hedland Port Authority this week completed a port access deal with its newest customer, aspiring iron ore exporter Aurox Resources Ltd.

That followed an agreement last year with several Pilbara mining companies, including Atlas Iron Ltd and Consolidated Minerals Ltd, which underpinned a $225 million expansion of its public berth.

In addition, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd has completed the development of its own port facilities and has been talking up the prospect of further expansion.

Last but not least, the port's biggest user, BHP Billiton Ltd, is evaluating the development of a new outer harbour to accommodate its ambitious iron ore expansion plans.

"With the inclusion of BHP facilities, Port Hedland port's exports are expected to reach 130 million tonnes per annum this financial year and rise to about 180mpta in 12 months, maintaining its position as one of the world's largest bulk export ports," Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said this week.

Export volumes are likely to at least triple over the coming decade if BHP, FMG and other exporters realise their expansion plans.

BHP has stated that it aims to lift its Pilbara iron ore output from 129mtpa this year to 240mtpa in 2012 and 350mtpa in the long term.

This would necessitate an outer harbour development, which effectively means construction of a long jetty outside the current harbour.

BHP president of iron ore Ian Ashby said in a briefing this week that an outer harbour development would allow the company to make use of capacity that was not accessible from the inner harbour, with a staged development of the project likely.

"We're able to make use of some capacity that was not accessible from the inner harbour, and we're able to make that accessible by building an outer harbour facility," Mr Ashby said.

FMG's initial goal is to produce 45mtpa but is hoping to produce up to 200mtpa in the longer term.

The new agreement between Aurox and the PHPA will allow Aurox to utilise the new multi-user berth at Utah Point, with the junior to install and operate its own dewatering, stacking and reclaiming equipment.

"While Aurox will develop its own storage and retrieval facilities, the port will develop storage facilities that smaller operations can lease and all exporters will use the port's conveyor and ship loader," Ms MacTiernan said in a statement.

Aurox managing director Charles Schaus said the agreement keeps the company's Balla Balla magnetite project on track, with its first shipment due in 2010.

"Access to port facilities is clearly a critical element in the development of a project such as this - without a port there is no project," Mr Schaus said.

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