Australia’s biggest magnetite mine is getting bigger

Production under way at Sino Iron Project as construction continues.
Date: Thursday, 02 April 2015

Minister and Director General tour CITIC Pacific’s Cape Preston project. 

Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion and Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) Director General Richard Sellers came face to face with a monster machine during a visit this week to CITIC Pacific’s Cape Preston site in the Pilbara.

The 980-tonne Terex RH400 hydraulic excavator is famous for its appearance as the Decepticon Demolisher in the second Transformers movie.

“The machine has one of the biggest shovels in the world, with a bucket that is capable of scooping up 80 tonnes of magnetite ore,” Mr Sellers said.

The Minister and Mr Sellers were shown around the mammoth site by CITIC CEO Chen Zeng.

“It was an excellent opportunity for the Minister to get an update on the progress of the Sino Iron Project,” Mr Sellers said.

Mr Sellers said it was fascinating to be able to go down into the site’s mining pit and see the various processes in operation.

“We watched all the operations, from mining to crushing and dewatering and then transfer of the ore to huge barges moved by tugs to 115,000-tonne capacity bulk carriers purpose-built by CITIC to carry the ore to China,” he said.

The Director General described the site as a hive of activity as construction continues on four of the six giant seven-storey grinding mills in the crushing circuit.

Mr Sellers used the example of cyclone hawsers kept in readiness at the site’s port, but may never see service, to emphasise the scale and scope of Cape Preston.

“Those massive orange ropes cost $1 million each and need to be replaced every two years,” he said.

Mr Sellers said that the State Government was a strong supporter of Cape Preston and Minister Marmion was pleased to be told during his visit that CITIC had applied for the rebate on magnetite ore.

“Citic has also been working closely with DMP and other agencies to implement best practice safety and environmental strategies.”

Cape Preston is the largest magnetite mining and processing operation in Australia, with more than two billion tonnes of identified magnetite resources and an expected mine life of 25 years.

When fully developed, the mine will be about 5.5 kilometres long by two kilometres wide and 600 metres deep.

The mine is a drill-and-blast, load-and-haul, operation using some of the biggest mining equipment in the world.

During the peak construction period, 4000 people were employed in building the project and about 1000 workers will be permanently employed when the site is fully operational.

The Sino Iron Project is estimated to generate around $111 billion in direct revenue to the Australian economy, and $5.5 billion in royalties for Western Australia.

The company started producing magnetite in July 2013, with the first shipment sent to China in December of that year.

Fact file:

  • CITIC Pacific's port is the first port to be built in the Pilbara in 40 years.
  • The breakwater extends 2.6 metres offshore from the tip of Cape Preston.
  • The site’s desalination plant is about the same size as the Perth-Kwinana plant.
  • The plant is producing 70 megalitres of water per day, with a final capacity of 140 megalitres per day, or 51 gigalitres per year.
  • The reservoir capacity is 15 megalitres, or the equivalent of six Olympic-size swimming pools.
  • The power station that will primarily power the concentrator circuit will generate electricity equal to the Pilbara’s entire capacity.

The 980-tonne Terex RH400 hydraulic excavator.

A dump truck framed by an exposed vein of magnetite.

Construction continues on the crushing circuit.

The Minister with Mr Zeng (right) and Mr Sellers in the control room.

This $1 million cyclone hawser must be replaced every two years.