$10b ore project shines bright

Amid the doom and gloom that hangs over WA's iron ore industry, foundations are being poured, bridges built and rail tracks laid as construction of Gina Rinehart's $10 billion Roy Hill project races towards the half-way mark.

With a target of first production by September next year, Roy Hill's construction is 43 per cent complete. The mine site 115km north of Newman, the 344km railway to the coast and a two-berth ship loading operation at Port Hedland are taking shape.

More than 3500 workers are involved in Roy Hill's construction, a rare ray of sunshine in the State shaken by the cancellation of resources projects, scaling back of operations and endless productivity drives that have cost thousands of jobs. Low metals prices - iron ore prices are at a two-year low - and WA's persistently high construction and operating costs have caused the malaise.

Roy Hill also promises a fillip for WA coffers, which will swell with millions of dollars in royalties, based on the mine's annual production of 55 million tonnes of iron ore.

"We look forward to becoming a major iron ore producer on an international scale, and thank our partners for their steadfast support for this major Australian project," Mrs Rinehart said yesterday.

In a rarity for the industry, Mrs Rinehart's Roy Hill partners are not from China, which buys more of the steel-making ingredient than any other country.

Japan's Marubeni, South Korea's Posco and Taiwan's China Steel Corp have injected $3.65 billion in return for a 30 per cent stake in Roy Hill, expected to become Australia's biggest single-site iron ore operation.

Roy Hill's processing site, which will include ore crushers and scrubbers, stockpiles and reclaimers, train loaders and conveyors linking it to the mine pits, is surrounded by a teardrop-shaped railway loop for trains to and from Port Hedland.

In full flight, Roy Hill's 1200-strong operational workforce will each year move 350 million tonnes of material before extracting 68mt of iron ore for processing and loading 55mt on to ships in Port Hedland.

The West Australian

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