Hope Downs rail line cleared

<p>A 324-km rail line between the Hope Downs iron ore deposit and Port Hedland has been given environmental approval.</p> <p>The Environmental Protection Authority said the track could be acceptably built so long as its construction recommendations were followed.</p> <p>This ruling brings the $1bn Hope Downs iron ore project a step closer to reality.</p> <p>Salomon Smith Barney has been appointed financial adviser to the project, a 50:50 joint venture between Hancock Prospecting and South African mining company Kumba Resources.</p> <p>Hope Downs Management Services said that letters of intent has been signed by major overseas iron ore importers for more than half the planned production scheduled for the first five years.</p> <p>The new mine will be 75-km northwest of Newman and has iron ores reserves of around 400m tonnes. </p> <p>The company wants to produce 5m tonnes of export ore in the first year, increasing to 25m tonnes a year within a five-year period. </p> <p>Subject to final approval, construction of the Hope Downs project is expected to start later next year, with first production in early 2006.</p> <br />