Iron ore would be delivered to the new export facilities using 300-tonne-capacity road trains on private haul roads built by Mineral Resources after it abandoned previous plans for a light-rail system.
Mineral Resources did not provide an estimate of the costs involved in its latest infrastructure and iron ore plans. Its original Pilbara infrastructure plans involving just South-West Creek came with a price tag of $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion.
MinRes set to evolve
Mr Ellison said Mineral Resources, at its core a mining services business as well as iron ore and lithium producer, was now set on becoming a builder, owner and operator of supply-chain infrastructure.
“We believe without any doubt that over the next 2½ to three years we are going to double the entire Mineral Resources business,” he said.
“That is doubling in revenue, probably in the number of people we employ, the tonnes we shift and, more importantly, doubling the bottom line.”
Mr Ellison said the new supply chain through South-West Creek and Onslow would provide a pathway to market for vast but stranded iron ore deposits in the Pilbara.
The company had been working on 300-tonne-capacity road trains for a couple of years and “for these big girls we need to build our own roads”.
Mineral Resources plans to build hundreds of kilometres of private roads and to make the huge road trains driverless as soon as possible.
The company said it had received assurances from government department and traditional owners that they were on board for its various projects.
Mr Ellison said Mineral Resources was keen to boost its lithium reserves and hydroxide processing capacity, and that lithium demand was starting to pick up.
Some of the iron ore needed to boost Utah Point exports to 14 million tonnes a year would come from the Wonmunna project recently bought from the Australian Aboriginal Mining Corporation (AAMC) in a move that has sparked a legal brawl with Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group.
Fortescue, which five years ago signed a mine gate agreement with AAMC that failed to progress, alleges that the Wonmunna mining leases are invalid and has launched legal action against a former AAMC subsidiary now owned by Mineral Resources.
In a swipe at Fortescue, Mr Ellison said AAMC – whose chairman and only Aboriginal shareholder, Daniel Tucker, quit the board following the sale to Mineral Resources – had suffered an “unfortunate experience” over the past five years.
“They were able to get it [Wonmunna] going with their joint venture partner,” he said.
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