QR National evaluates independent rail line for Pilbara
QR National is evaluating an independent, multi-party railway to connect iron ore mines in the East Pilbara to Port Hedland.
QR National is evaluating the development of standard-gauge railway to be designed as a staged development to be progressively expanded to meet shipping allocations of customers at Port Hedland Port. Operation of the initial stages could commence as early as 2015.
"QR National believes the Pilbara offers one of our Company’s most outstanding growth opportunities where we can leverage existing capability in heavy-haul rail," said QR National
Executive Vice President Strategy and Business Development, Ken Lewsey.
"We’ve been constructing and operating multi-user heavy-haul railways in Queensland’s coalfields for decades. This coal network has current capacity for 250 million tonnes per annum, potentially growing to 300 mtpa by 2015.
"This capability is readily transferrable to the Pilbara where a number of independent miners are seeking rail transport solutions.
"The value of an independent railway is that we can achieve the economies of scale by aggregating the tonnages of multiple parties, as well as delivering efficiency gains across a co-ordinated supply chain."
QR National has signed an Agreement with Atlas Iron to jointly study a proposal to service iron ore deposits of Atlas and other miners in the first stage of the proposed infrastructure development.
Under this proposal, the parties would work towards Atlas becoming a cornerstone user of the infrastructure. However the railway would be developed on the basis of other miners connecting and accessing the railway through staged development.
"Atlas and QR National have been working informally on the proposal since 2011. Both companies have reached a position where a formal agreement to further explore the opportunity is appropriate in taking it to the next stage," Mr Lewsey said.
"Atlas is Australia’s most developed iron ore miner that is not hauling on rail. QR National is Australia’s leading provider of heavy-haul rail transport and infrastructure. We’re also the fastest growing rail haulier of iron ore outside the Pilbara.
"It makes sense then to collectively explore the significant opportunities the Pilbara presents.
"The work done to date demonstrates this proposal has merit. It’s now time to put it through the commercial and operational rigours of a joint study."‘
Mr Lewsey said QR National had been encouraged by discussions to date with the Western Australian Government which is a strong supporter of infrastructure development in the region.
The Agreement will see Atlas and QR National share costs and resources required for the study, expected to be completed by the end of the year. Any developed proposal would be subject to further agreement between each company and the approvals and investment hurdles of their respective boards.
QR National is Australia's largest rail freight company with services operating across five states. In 2010/11, QR National transported more than 240 million tonnes of freight, including coal, iron ore, other minerals, agricultural products and general freight. It also operates and manages the 2300 kilometre Central Queensland coal network that links mines to coal ports at Bowen, Mackay and Gladstone.