06/07/2004 - 22:00

Mitchell drawing miners

06/07/2004 - 22:00

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A Spread of international and Australian resource companies are lining up to sieze the major Mitchell Plateau bauxite resource in the State’s Kimberley region from a Rio Tinto-led joint venture.

Mitchell drawing miners

A Spread of international and Australian resource companies are lining up to sieze the major Mitchell Plateau bauxite resource in the State’s Kimberley region from a Rio Tinto-led joint venture.

Some are even looking at the longer-term possibility of developing the long-held government vision of an alumina smelter estimated to be worth $4 billion.

A spokesman for State Development Minister Clive Brown confirmed five of the six mining companies that had pressured the government for access to previously closed geological data on the Mitchell Plateau had officially applied for that access.

Local iron-ore company Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), giant Russian alumina producer Rusal, local gold explorer Intermin Resources, Indian copper producer Indo Gulf Corporation and Queensland-based bauxite explorer Aldoga have all expressed an interest in the deposit.

The Aluminium Corporation of China (CHALCO), which has changed its chairman since it expressed initial interest last year, did not respond by the June 30 2004 deadline.

An invitation to view the data was sent out last month by the WA Government after the six companies pressured it for access to the deposit.

The resource had been held under a State agreement with the Mitchell Plateau Bauxite Co, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto in joint venture with Anglogold Australia and Alcoa World Alumina Australia, for the past 30 years.

The Mitchell Plateau Bauxite Co was due to relinquish the resource at the end of 2003, however, managed to negotiate a nine-month extension.

The Government at the same time managed to secure third party access.

It is hoped the geological information will allow the companies to undertake a preliminary investigation into the economic viability of mining and refining the Mitchell Plateau bauxite deposits.

Of the two companies contacted by WA Business News – Aldoga and FMG – Aldoga appears to have the more extensive plans of the two.

FMG’s Damon Edwards said FMG had “no detailed plans at this stage but just wanted to see what was on offer”.

Aldoga is in the process of establishing a second base in WA.

Marcelle Anderson, head of the department of cabinet under former premier Carmen Lawrence, recently relocated from the east to set up Aldoga’s operations.

Aldoga also holds other bauxite deposits near the Mitchell Plateau and is preparing an initial six-week exploration program that will start soon and cost about $500,000.

Ms Anderson confirmed Aldoga would investigate the information on the Mitchell Plateau but said its own deposits would take precedence.

She said the Mitchell Plateau State Agreement required a refinery to be constructed if the deposit is mined and that was something Aldoga was investigating.

It is currently constructing a $2 billion aluminium smelter in Gladstone, Queensland and has signed a cooperation agreement on bauxite exploration in WA with the Non Ferrous Metals Group of China (NFC).

Asked whether Aldoga would entertain the idea of developing an Aluminium Smelter in WA, Ms Anderson said she would not rule it out, however, a lot of work needed to be done.

“We haven’t ruled it out, but we have not ruled it in,” Ms Anderson said.

She said the cost of power had previously prevented a smelter being built in WA, however with expansion of the north-west energy sector, the possibility was there.

Aldoga’s plans for a smelter may be complemented as the Government looks to tie up some major proposed resource projects into one strategic development.

It hopes to tie-up the first stage of the proposed $11 billion Gorgon gas development with Alcoa’s proposed $1.5 billion Wagerup alumina expansion to facilitate the development of a second gas pipeline from Gorgon to the mainland and ultimately Wagerup. 

The access to the Mitchell Plateau also came as the Mitchell Plateau Bauxite Co submitted a $500,000 comprehensive and independent review of the deposit.

A spokesman for the joint venture said the report did not indicate whether the joint venture wanted to develop the resource.

He said the joint venture had until September 31 to decide whether they would develop the resource, however, there was nothing to say the Government would not again extend the agreement.

The spokesman said they were yet to discuss their intentions with the Government.

 

Mitchell hopefuls 

  • Fortescue Metals Group
  • Rusal
  • Intermin Resources
  • Indo Gulf Corporation
  • Aldoga
  • Aluminium Corporation of China (CHALCO)*

* Have not indicated further interest

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