Atlas and QR National to rival BHP rail

Atlas Iron and QR National are working together on plans for a new rail line in the Pilbara to rival existing developments by BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group.

A joint venture between Atlas and QR will be conducting a feasibility study for the $3.5 billion line.

The study is expected to be finished by the end of this year, with first haulage completed by 2015.

Atlas currently trucks ore to Port Hedland but needs a rail line to boost production and develop other sites in the southeast Pilbara.

In a statement today the company said a rail line could lead to it tripling iron ore production.

"Atlas intends to use rail haulage as part of its strategy to grow production from 15Mtpa to as much as 46Mtpa, enabling the company to take advantage of its highly valuable Port Hedland port capacity," the statement reads.

"The potential development of an independent Pilbara rail network could represent a paradigm shift for the progressive development of the Pilbara, breaking open long-standing barriers to new entrants to the iron ore industry."

Infrastructure is currently a valuable commodity in the Pilbara, with BHP, Rio, and FMG closely guarding their rail lines and port capacity.

Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting also has plans to build a rail line to Port Hedland from the Roy Hill development.

Atlas and QR’s joint venture follows indications last month QR was looking to expand operations to the Pilbara.

Abbot Point Coal Terminal future in doubt as Rio pulls out

The future of the massive Abbot Point Coal Terminal is in doubt after main supporter Rio Tinto has pulled out of development.

The $6.2 billion expansion of the coal port would see four additional coal terminals built; which would provide an extra annual capacity of 120 million tonnes and would support the developments in the Bowen, Surat, and Galilee Basins of Queensland.

Rio is believed to have pulled out of the development due to ‘economic uncertainty’, the Daily Mercury reports.

"Rio Tinto withdrew from the current process for the potential development of additional port capacity at Abbot Point, due to changes in the economic environment and the commitments required to progress the option," a Rio Tinto spokesperson said.

"Global economic markets have shifted to a period of significant uncertainty and we continue to see both a sustained upward pressure on costs and long timeframes for regulatory approvals."

However the miner has not ruled out future participation.

"Rio Tinto would welcome the opportunity to participate in further discussions should key elements of the Abbot Point proposal be revised in the future, such as the development model and scope of commitment required. Rio Tinto’s focus at present is evaluating potential alternatives to Abbot Point for additional port capacity."

Despite the move potentially threatening the future of the port, the region’s mayor Mike Brunker was unworried.

"I think it’s nothing to panic about.

"It’s cutting the weak from the strong," Brunker said, adding that a lot of other miners are eyeing the port as well.

However the member for Dawson, George Christensen, raised concerns over Brunker’s flippant attitude, saying that other miners may follow them out the door.

"There’s speculation BHP Billiton could be jittery on it (the expansion) as well."

Christensen said that continued government approval delays were the real reason behind Rio’s move, stating that these "approvals have been with the Federal Government since December 2010 until now".

"If (approval times) go on too long it will kill (the expansion).

BHP preparing for Port Hedland outer harbour

BHP Billiton hopes to begin pre-construction piling at Port Hedland this Friday, the first step in its $10 billion outer harbour project.

The two-month operation will install three test piles along the route of the proposed outer harbour jetty.

Five other steel piles will be installed to support survey equipment, with the entire project working between 1.7km and 31.5km off the Port Hedland coast.

Earlier this year the company approved close to $1 billion in pre-commitment funding for the Outer Harbour and revised plans for a fly-in fly-out camp to house construction workers.

The company initially proposed a 6,000-person camp but after its rejection the number was revised to 2,000 with the option to add a further 2,000.

BHP’s board is expected to give total approval to the Outer Harbour Development later this year.

Power lines go underground to aid machinery transport

Powerlines between Perth and Pilbara will go underground in a move to cut delays and red tape in moving massive mining machinery.

It comes after miners have spent the past decade complaining of long lead times in permit approvals, police escorts and the need to raise powerlines during transportation.

WA transport minister Troy Buswell explained that "each time the lines are lifted the industry must pay Western Power or Horizon Power and, with the increase in movements of oversize loads, this cost – which is passed on to customers – is also increasing".

Buswell yesterday unveiled plans for a single application process for oversize load permits and clearance, slashing the planning times.

"Given the significance of the resources industry to the Western Australian economy, we need to make sure Government does what it can to allow the heavy haulage industry to operate as efficiently as possible," he said.

Buswell’s plan involved burying eight powerlines along the Grent Northern Highway between Perth and Newman.

The eight powerlines consist of two in Bindoon, three in Miling, and one in Pithara, Dalwallinu, and Wubin.

It will focus first on lines with a clearance of 6.5 metres, with higher lines to be considered after.

It will run over two months and cost around a quarter of million dollars, with Buswell adding that it will save companies approximately $15 000 per transportation.

"Given there were 849 oversize permits issued for loads travelling this route in 2011, the undergrounding of these lines will mean up to 90% of these loads will no longer require Western Power supervision," Buswell said.

"Once completed, Main Roads will look to identify other areas where this initiative will provide benefits to the transport industry."

There were approximately 90 applications a day for heavy equipment transportation since the start of this year.

On the back of this change Police have also looked to increase their involvement, adding another six people to the escort process.

WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy director David Callachor welcomed Buswell’s initiative, saying it would lift some of the burden from mining and transport companies.

QR may step into BMA coal strikes

QR national could reportedly help end the long running series of industrial disputes across BMA coal mines in the Bowen Basin.

The rail haulage company may ask Fair Work Australia to intervene in the enterprise bargaining negotiations by showing that the strikes have damaged its business, the AFR reports.

The company has reportedly already been forced to downgrade its earning due to the battle between BMA and the CFMEU.

Negotiations between the miner and the unions broke down again this week as the CFMEU carried out rolling strikes across mine sites.

According to the CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth, BHP put forth changes to previous areas of agreement, in particular areas that would diminish miners’ abilities to have a greater say on their allocated rosters.

"We had an agreed position on rosters but BMA changed their view," CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth stated.

"Before, they could trial rosters but could never implement them. Now they want to be able to enforce them." Stoppages will continue until tomorrow.

Smyth went on to accuse BMA of purposefully prolonging negotiations to drive up coking coal prices, adding that the miner has refused mediation.

We (the Single Bargaining Unit) have offered the company on two occasions to go to mediation but they have declined each time," he said.

"They don’t want a third party involved. They don’t even want the unions involved."

This was refuted by BMA president Stephen Dumble as the miner put forth a ballot to end the negotiations impasse.

Dumble added that the company can not compromise on issues central to its future competiveness.

According to a number of lawyers, QR has the right to intervene in these strikes and could even seek to have industrial action terminated.

While QR has declined to say whether it would intervene, CFMEU district president Steve Smyth acknowledged there was the potential for QR to step in.

Read more about:
Bowen Basin, BMA, CFMEU, industrial action, Steve Smyth, strikes, Stephen Dumble, QR

New forklift fleet lifts transport operator business

Perth-based transport company, Warners Transport, which specialises in small to large scale transport and warehousing services for range of industries, including mining, says the switch to Toyota forklifts last year has helped to improve its family own-operations.

Last year the company invested in a fleet of new Toyota forklifts and reach trucks to replace its existing fleet from another materials handling provider.

"We put the forklifts through a lot of hard work and they are extremely reliable and easy to operate – overall they’re a real step-up for our day-to-day operations," said Warners Transport co-owner, Shane Warner.

The company acquired four 32-8FG25 forklifts and one 32-8FG30 with container masts for its Welshpool warehouse, where forklift operators each move between five to 20 containers per day.

According to Warner, the safety features and running performance of forklifts made the large workload more manageable.

"My operators have told me the machines are quieter and more comfortable to use with easier controls than those we previously used," he said.

"They are also better balanced and more stable when cornering, which is very important when carting such heavy loads."

The 8FG forklifts feature Toyota’s System of Active Stability (SAS) for safe manoeuvring and Operator Presence Sensing (OPS), which prevents accidental movement.

Other features include SAS Automatic Fork Levelling Control, 2237cc 4Y petrol engines for ergonomic control and smooth, quiet operation.

Specially designed containers make export easy for junior miners

The rotainer system has made it easier for miners without rail access to export their ore, essentially opening up a whole new market for junior miners.
This is especially the case out of South Australian ports, for companies such as IMX and Iron Clad.

They are now able to transport the ore via shipping containers moved on the back of trucks. However, containers always had to be co-opted for the process, making transportation more difficult than it needed to be.

SCF Group, an Australian container manufacturer and supplier, has become the first company in the country to specifically design a container, with a removable lid, to work with the rotainer system. According to the company, it was able to manufacture and deliver a unit within only 90 days, as compared to the standard industry time of six months. 

Richard Sykes, SCF Group chief, said the latest container had been tailor made for Hillgrove Resources to move copper concentrate from its Kanmantoo copper mine to an inner harbour facility at Port Adelaide. 

"The container is fully loaded on the wharf with the lid firmly in position when the tippler system lifts the unit into the hull of the ship. The lid will then be removed and the container rotated 360 degrees, before the lid is placed back on the unit," Sykes said.

"The unit’s design also reduces the environmental impact of the copper concentrate as the lid is on the container at all times except when being unloaded inside the ship’s hull." 

To date the SCF Group has created 450 of the specially designed environmentally friendly containers for Hillgrove Resources. The containers measure approximately 20 foot, and are half height open top units.

SCF Group 1300 637 789, www.scfgroup.com.au

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