Iron Ore Developers Report on Early-stage Studies in W.A.

Grange Resources, Aquila Resources and Zenith Minerals, each with interests in iron ore development projects in Western Australia, have reported the results of prefeasibility or scoping studies for their projects. Brief summaries of the studies are reported here. Significantly more project detail is available on the companies' Web sites.

Grange Resources Ltd., which owns and operates the Savage River magnetite iron ore mine and pellet plant in Tasmania, reported the results of a prefeasibility study of the Southdown magnetite project in southern Western Australia. The project is a joint venture between Grange, 70%, and Sojitz Resources & Technology, 30%. The project includes a 7-million-mt/y pelletizing plant with a ship-loading and unloading facility at the Port of Kemaman on the east coast of Malaysia. The Southdown deposit is located 90 km northeast of the port of Albany on the south coast of Western Australia. Prefeasibility modeling indicates the project will cost A$2.57 billion to complete the mine-site preparation, concentrator and associated infrastructure required to load and ship approximately 10 million mt/y of high-grade magnetite concentrate containing 69% iron.

Operating costs are estimated at less than A$60/mt of concentrate produced and loaded. Mine life is projected at 19 years, with potential to extend to 40 years.

The Southdown project is already well advanced. Major permits for the mine and port are in place, land tenure is largely secure, metallurgical test work is well advanced, and power line easements are established and permitted. A definitive feasibility study is slated for completion during the first quarter of 2012. Initial production is forecast for 2014.

Aquila Resources Ltd. announced a positive prefeasibility study of the Hardey iron ore project being developed by its 50%-owned Australian Premium Iron Joint Venture in the West Pilbara region of Western Australia. American Metals and Coal International Inc., a private investment and trading corporation, is its joint-venture partner.

The Hardey prefeasibility study focused on producing a direct-ship fines product based on a blend of Brockman and Marra Mamba ores. The prefeasibility study confirmed the technical and financial viability of a 10-million-mt/y project. Mine life is estimated at 14 years. Capital expenditure is estimated at A$1.6 billion for the requisite mine, rail and port facilities, including provisions for EPCM and contingency. Operating costs are estimated at A$22/mt FOB, excluding royalties. A decision to proceed to a feasibility study is expected shortly.

Zenith Minerals Ltd. received a positive scoping study for an open-cut mine, concentrator, and export infrastructure development producing 8 million mt/y of high-grade iron concentrate at its 100%-owned Mount Alexander project in the West Pilbara region of Western Australia. Capital investment is estimated at A$1.7 billion. The project would have a 20-year mine life based on treating 560 million mt of ore at a head grade of 30.9% iron.

The Mount Alexander project is located near the port of Onslow, 260 km southwest of Karratha. The North West Coastal Highway is 10 km west of the project, and the Dampier Bunbury gas pipeline passes to the west of the highway. The scoping study was undertaken by ProMet Engineers. Zenith said it is actively seeking a partner to develop the project.

As featured in Womp 2011 Vol 05 -