Australia’s next major iron ore province may well emerge in the region southwest of the historic silver, lead and zinc mining town of Broken Hill, on the border of South Australian and New South Wales, according to Minotaur Exploration.
The company made the forecast while calling on aspiring side-by-side magnetite project owners on the Braemar Iron Formation to grasp the ‘first mover’ opportunity for a ‘super iron plant’ that could save billions of dollars in up-front project costs, but deliver up to 100 years of regional mining.
Backing Minotaur’s forecast, the company says, is a raft of positive exploration drilling and metallurgical results emerging from numerous explorers in the area. Its managing director Andrew Woskett says, “If sustained, the flow of quality exploration results could underpin the development of centralized processing and export infrastructure as the backbone of a significant, new iron ore region in South Australia.
“Our own excellent metallurgical results from the Mutooroo magnetite project near the border, plus powerful exploration reports from adjacent projects, such as Carpentaria Exploration and Havilah Resources, point clearly to the potential for multi-billion tonne magnetite endowment. And with new explorers entering the region also seeking magnetite mineralization, an iron momentum is definitely building in the area.
“Should our projections become fact, as explorers work towards defining resources and reserves, it is reasonable then to see the possibility of several new magnetite mines along the Braemar Iron Formation, each potentially hosting several hundreds of millions of tonnes of magnetite rich siltstones, near a centre better known for its historic lead, silver and zinc production.”
Andrew Woskett says the scenario lends itself towards a unique opportunity in Australian resources - for up-front, multi-user infrastructure development combining centralized processing and pellet manufacture, water supply, power supply, rail transport and a new, deep draft, cape size shipping terminal near Port Pirie.
“The ideal outcome for any new iron ore province south-west of Broken Hill would be a multi-user facility where joint ownership of the infrastructure could serve the processing and transport needs of several independent mining ventures.”
“Conceptually, a single, super magnetite beneficiation plant of 25 million tonnes/annum concentrate capacity would consume around 450 megawatts of power and 50 gigalitres of water a year. This model implies a series of 5-10 pits collectively contributing more than 100 million tonnes annually of magnetite bearing siltstones into a centralized concentrator and pellet production plant.
“A large-scale development of this nature, based on a current peer project, would cost around Aus$6 billion but, could potentially save mine owners around Aus$5 billion, in aggregate, than if each potential project sought to separately develop its own 5-10 million tonne concentrator operation.
“To put this early vision into context, a super-size plant of 25 million tonne concentrate capacity is around the size of that being commissioned by CITIC Pacific at Cape Preston, in Western Australia.”
He said while the potential iron ore province was in ‘its development infancy’, adopting a forward looking regional ‘big picture’ outlook now could shorten the historic imbalance between economic mineral discovery and commercialization and the parallel development of ore processing and export infrastructure.