AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Aurizon extends Pilbara line talks with junior miners

<span class="" id="parent-fieldname-description"> Rail operator Aurizon and junior miners Atlas Iron and Brockman Mining have extended their joint study into a new standard gauge rail link between the Pilbara and Port Hedland, following a positive opening phase to the investigation. </span> <p>Phase one of Aurizon, Atlas and Brockman’s joint study showed the merits of a new rail link, which would aggregate production from a number of operating and prospective mines in the East Pilbara region, and link them with proposed port infrastructure at South West Creek in Port Hedland.</p><p>Following this positive result, the three parties have agreed to extend their joint study to at least July 1.</p><p>“The results of the joint study support our view that an infrastructure solution for junior miners in the Pilbara is viable and could be realised, to the benefit of all of our stakeholders,” Atlas Iron managing director Ken Brinsden said.</p><p>Brockman Australia’s CEO Russell Tipper agreed with Brinsden’s assessment, saying the study’s opening phase demonstrated the benefits of working with aligned parties to provide infrastructure solutions.</p><p>Tipper, who has in the past worked with mining giant BHP Billiton and Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting, told The Australian in March that something would “break” in 2013 in the ongoing battle for infrastructure in the Pilbara.</p><p>“We are in the Pilbara at a very interesting stage,” he told the News Limited paper. “There is a fair potential shift in the way people are thinking about infrastructure and that may well play to [Brockman’s] strengths.”</p><p>Brockman and Atlas’s plans go against the grain in the Pilbara, which currently features five main rail lines linking mines there to export facilities at Port Hedland and Dampier, with limited access available to junior miners.</p><p>BHP Billiton has operated two rail lines from the Pilbara to Port Hedland for several decades, and Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) has operated a line of its own to Port Hedland since 2008.</p><p>FMG lodged an application with the National Competition Council for access to BHP’s lines in 2004 – before it decided to build its own line.</p><p>Four&nbsp years later, the High Court ruled that FMG could use BHP’s Mt. Newman line. Shortly after, Treasurer Wayne Swan ruled BHP’s other line – Goldsworthy – as well as Rio Tinto’s Hamersley and Robe River lines, which run to Dampier, open to other iron ore producers under the same act.</p><p>Swan supported FMG’s bid for shared access because he said it would increase competition, prevent double-ups in infrastructure and reduce environmental and native title concerns.</p><p>The Australian Competition Tribunal reviewed the case and in 2010 decided to maintain third party access to BHP’s Goldsworthy line and Rio’s Robe River line for FMG, but decided to protect Rio and BHP’s exclusive access to the other two lines.</p>