Pilbara to get new iron ore port

Pilbara to get new iron ore port

Ronsard Island, about 80km west of Port Hedland, has been recommended for the Pilbara’s next major iron ore port.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said that if iron ore exports grew as predicted, they could exceed the capacities of existing ports at Dampier, Port Hedland and Cape Lambert within a decade.

”With iron ore exports potentially growing from 235 million tonnes a year, to as much as 595 million tonnes over the next 10 years, we could need a major new iron ore port as early as in six years’ time if the high growth scenarios are realised,” Ms MacTiernan said.

”While the capacity of existing ports could potentially be expanded from 240 million tonnes currently, to about 540 million tonnes, estimates for possible future export demand are as high as 890 million tonnes by 2025. That is why the Government has begun the process of selecting a site for a new port with a capacity of more than 300 million tonnes, or about three times Port Hedland’s current throughput.

A preliminary study by independent consultants examined six possible sites and identified Ronsard Island as the site with the greatest potential to satisfy multiple users.

The Minister said the study, by Worley Parsons, investigated sites at Cape Preston, West Intercourse Island, Cape Lambert, Cape Thouin and Sherlock River, as well as Ronsard Island.

The consultants identified Sherlock River (Depuch Island) as the next best site.

However, heritage issues at this site would have made obtaining the necessary approvals difficult.

Factors that were considered to assess the suitability of sites for a new iron ore port included proximity to likely areas of iron ore mining expansion; potential environmental impacts; capacity to meet the future needs of the industry; proximity to supporting infrastructure; the availability of construction materials; concerns with geology and geotechnical issues; concerns with potential flooding; the relative degree of shelter; and the relative development costs of providing basic infrastructure.

Further investigation of environmental, heritage, marine, coastal engineering, geological and geotechnical issues would now be undertaken to confirm its suitability.

The Government would consult with stakeholders including industry, local government and indigenous communities during these investigations.

”Areas within a new port would be set aside for major iron ore companies to build and manage their own infrastructure, as in Dampier and Port Hedland,” Ms MacTiernan said.

”There would also be areas for common-user berths for smaller companies and other shipping, overseen by a port authority, possibly a combined Pilbara Port Authority.”

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