The Ridges iron ore mine in the East Kimberley. Picture: Kimberley Metals Group

Kimberley iron ore mines restart operations

Thursday, 16 May, 2024 - 15:28

Two remote Kimberley iron ore minnows are dusting off the cobwebs to resume mining as forecasts for the commodity stabilise.

Kimberley Metals Group is understood to have shipped its first iron ore for nearly three years out of Wyndham on Wednesday.

And fellow privately held minnow Cockatoo Island Mining has flagged its intention to resume mining on the island 135 kilometres north of Derby within the next 12 months.

KMG in March signed on Engage to operate transshipments out of Cambridge Gulf Limited’s Wyndham port facilities.

The miner’s Ridges Iron Ore Project 165 kilometres south of the port churned out about 6.2 million tonnes of ore between 2011 and 2015 before being mothballed.

A brief period of operation under Singaporean businessman Yuzheng Xie’s Gold Valley Iron ended when that company fell into administration in March 2020.

A new beneficiation plant enabled production to resume in 2020 with Indus Mining as operator in a joint venture with Habrok Mining – which last month appointed a liquidator – but that only lasted one year and exported another 1.7 million tonnes.

Indus and Habrok were backed by Sydney-based Simon Rafferty, who is embroiled in drama over several failed businesses his private capital firm Remagen Capital invested in.

KMG has long harboured ambitions to develop its Matsu iron ore satellite deposit 10 kilometres south of Ridges too, which it says contains “several million tonnes” of high grade ore.

The moves come as anxiety around Chinese demand for the red rock which had seen the price of iron ore slip 30 per cent in four months to US$99/tonne eases.

Iron ore was on Thursday morning trading at US$117/tonne and various analysts have lifted forecasts to between US$105 and US$150/tonne.

Cockatoo Island Mining signed an agreement with Dambimangari Aboriginal Corporation in January 2023 and had hoped to resume mining the island’s high grade ore for the first time since 2015 last year.

KMG and CIM were contacted for comment.