New $5B iron ore mine in the works for WA

Project would also involve construction of a port at Balla Balla and a 160-km railway

Western Australia is poised to sign an agreement with a wealthy New Zealand family whose multi-pronged business empire includes a large, undeveloped iron ore deposit.

WA Premier Colin Barnett said the Balla Balla Infrastructure Group would build the six to 10 million-tonnes-a-year iron ore mine on the Pilbara coast between Karratha and Port Hedland, WAtoday reported on Monday. The project is worth an estimated AUD$5.6 billion.

"This State agreement includes a requirement for local industry participation and community development plans to be submitted to the government for approval, maximising the benefits of the project for West Australians," the premier was quoted saying. The new mine is expected to create 3,300 jobs during construction and 910 once in operation.

The project also involves construction of a 160-kilometre railway and port, which would unlock the Balla Balla magnetite ore deposit along with billions of tonnes of hematite ore further inland that currently has no way of getting to market, notes The West Australian. The publication adds that other mining companies owning nearby deposits could also use the new rail link, "breaking the transport stranglehold enjoyed by BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group."

The parent company of the Balla Balla Infrastructure Group is the Todd Corporation, whose interests include mining, energy, health care, and property development.

According to a page on its website, Todd Minerals in 2015 acquired Rutila Resources Ltd., thus increasing its ownership in the Balla Balla Infrastructure Group (BBIG) to 90%. BBIG's projects in the Pilbara region of Australia include:

  • A 6-10 million tonne per annum iron ore project at Balla Balla.
  • An approved port facility at Balla Balla.
  • The development of a 160km railway line to the central Pilbara.

The Todd Corporation has a 52.6% interest in Flinders Mines Limited (ASX:FMS), which is developing the Pilbara Iron Ore Project, a 24.1% interest in tungsten company Wolf Minerals (ASX:WLF), and an 11.5% stake in a Canadian tungsten-molybdenum joint venture with Northcliff Resources (TSX:NCF).

Iron ore recently climbed to $83.50 a tonne, the highest the steelmaking ingredient has been since September 2014, on strong import figures from China.