Aurizon's rail plans could open mining in Pilbara

There is speculation that Aurizon Holdings (ASX: AZJ) will be allocated port space at Port Hedland, increasing the possibility that the company will build independent rail in the Pilbara.

At present, rail in the Pilbara is owned by Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue. Aurizon's Western Australia network of rail only covers half of the state.

If Aurizon can establish independent rail lines, the region could be opened up to other, smaller miners.

Aurizon is Australia’s largest rail freight operator, moving on average more than 700,000 tonnes of coal, iron ore and other minerals as well as agricultural and general freight across the nation.

The majority of the company's business comes from hauling coal in Queensland, although it also operates rail in New South Wales and Western Australia.