Global companies Metso and Weir Minerals and Perth firm Camco Engineering are leading a flurry of developments that will bring new jobs to Karratha and Port Hedland.
Mining equipment supplier Metso Corporation has a network of 140 service centres globally, with its new facility in Karratha to be the largest.
The facility is due to open early next year, and Metso is investing $52 million in the Karratha centre, which will employ more than 50 people.
Its service centre is just a short distance from Camco Engineering’s new workshop, which opened this month in the Gap Ridge industrial estate.
The Canning Vale company has outlaid more than $20 million on the construction and fit-out of its engineering workshop, which marks its first major expansion outside Perth.
Collectively, these companies expect to invest more than $130 million in the region.
All have professed their intention to become an integral part of the north-west, employing locals and supporting the community rather than populating their workshops with fly-in, fly-out workers.
This signals those businesses’ confidence in the north-west but also the steps mining services companies are taking to secure work with the big resources companies.
Finland-based Metso, which already supplies equipment to multiple mine sites in the Pilbara, is expanding.
In recent months, it has won contracts to supply 10 cone crushers to Rio Tinto’s Tom Price iron ore mine and three cone crushers for BHP’s Whaleback mine.
Metso is also winning work in Western Australia’s south, most recently supplying specialist equipment to Albemarle’s Kemerton lithium refinery.
In addition, Metso has bolstered its local expertise with the acquisition this year of Perth firm Brouwer Engineering, which specialised in automation and control systems for bulk material handling equipment.
The company said the new Karratha service centre was a pivotal addition to its global network.
It will be additional to its Henderson service centre in Perth’s southern suburbs.
The Karratha centre will provide maintenance and repair services for equipment such as crushers, grinding mills, screens, and car dumpers.
It is also equipped to service beneficiation and dewatering technologies.
Metso repairs operations Asia Pacific director Matt Morton said the investment in Karratha showed support for the group’s customers while contributing to the growth of the community.
“The ability to have our servicing and repair facility within close proximity to our customers allows for faster turnaround times and reduces the environmental impact of long-haul freight between Perth and the Pilbara region,” he said.
Mr Morton also pledged Metso’s support for local community building.
“We want to have stable, long-term employment, which is one of the reasons we chose Karratha,” he said.
Camco has invested more than $20 million on its new workshop.
Camco managing director Jonathan Wigley said his company had been evaluating opportunities in the north-west for about 25 years.
Its decision to invest was triggered by winning a five-year contract with Rio Tinto for the supply of new conveyor pulleys and conveyor pulley rebuilds.
This work is currently undertaken at its Canning Vale facility but will transition to Karratha, where Camco will have 25 full-time employees, including two apprentices.
That is out of a statewide workforce of about 450 people.
Camco recently relocated one of its experienced operations managers, along with his wife and three young children, to Karratha to lead the north-west operation. Initially, it also plans to have experienced supervisors and leading hands working in Karratha to help establish the operation and train local recruits.
“We want to build on the local skill set,” HR manager Tina Fusco said. Camco’s intention was to recruit as many local workers as possible.
“One hundred per cent residential would be ideal,” Ms Fusco said.
“We want to be a part of building Karratha.” She said this would include supporting local community groups.
She said Camco also had a big focus on Indigenous engagement, evidenced by its Reconciliation Action Plan and NAIDOC week events.
“We’ve had some big successes in Perth and will extend that to Karratha and Roebourne,” Ms Fusco told Business News.
Mr Wigley said the new facility, spanning 2,500 square metres, was modelled on the layout of Camco’s existing workshops at Canning Vale.
It sits on a 16,000sqm lot, providing plenty of scope for expansion.
“We could triple the workshop space if the work was there,” Mr Wigley said.
He said Camco had already been approached by other iron ore and LNG producers in the Pilbara.
“They are already Camco customers,” Mr Wigley said.
“We do work for them in Perth but they would prefer the work to be done in the Pilbara.
“We have installed equipment for scopes of work that we know will be needed.”
The construction was undertaken by Park City Construction, which had previously built two new workshops at Camco’s Canning Vale complex.
Mr Wigley said the key challenge faced by the builder was sourcing local service providers for the workshop construction.
“Camco and the builder were committed to sourcing, wherever possible, local Pilbara trades and service providers,” he said.
“Based on local demand and the associated cost implications of operating in the Pilbara, this was a significant challenge which was consistently overcome.”
Engenco’s planned Karratha workshop was also triggered by a contract with Rio Tinto.
Its subsidiary, Gemco Rail, has won a $150 million contract to build 100 iron ore wagons and supply new and reconditioned ore car bearings.
The first 40 ore cars will be built at Gemco’s existing facility in Forrestfield, while the Karratha facility is built.
Chief executive Dean Draper said the company remained on target to be operational in Karratha by the end of 2024.
Gemco expects to build an average of 10 ore cars per year over six years at its Karratha facility, which has been part-funded by a $6.9 million grant from the state government.
The Karratha facility will reduce the need to transport iron ore cars and bearings between Perth and the Pilbara, removing an estimated 150 truck journeys from WA roads.
Civmec chose Port Hedland’s Wedgefield industrial estate for its new facility.
Chief executive Pat Tallon said it would be used to provide maintenance services for the company’s clients in the region, complementing the manufacturing at its Henderson facility.
The company expects to invest more than $15 million in the new facility.
“Ideally we will fill all the full-time positions with locals, but that will take time,” he said.
The company has taken the unusual step of buying six established houses, all on one block, to accommodate staff moving to Hedland for work.
This was designed to mitigate the availability risks of camp-style accommodation while also showing the company’s commitment to the town.
Weir Minerals has built its new service centre in Port Hedland after winning a major contract with Fortescue Metals Group.
It has a £95 million order to provide aftermarket components and service to the Iron Bridge magnetite project. This followed its success in winning a record £100 million order for original equipment for the project.
Weir is investing $40 million in the service centre, which will span 5,000sqm across two phases.
The first part of the building for the ultra-heavy equipment and offices is due to be finshed this month and is approximately 3,200sqm. The additional 1,800sqm will start construction in the first quarter of 2024.
The company anticipates employing between 12 and 18 primarily local staff.