Port Loads First Massive Iron Ore Shipment
The man behind the trade, Townsville businessman Sir Mick Curtain, was optimistic it could be the first of regular shipments from his company’s Mount Moss mine about 160km northwest of the city.
“We are trying to prove up an economical resource,” Sir Mick said.
“We are optimistic as we always are.”
“(But) it’s been hard going because we haven’t got economies of scale.”
About 50,000 tonnes of lump iron ore - worth about $7.5 million on the spot market - is being loaded at the port’s berth three on to ore carrier Maritime Cuate.
It is the first of two trial shipments destined for processing at a Chinese steel mill.
A company associated with Sir Mick’s industrial group Curtain Bros, Mount Moss Mining, has been planning the venture, developing an open cut mine at Mount Moss on Zig Zag Station near Hidden Valley over the past five years.
Initially, it was hoped the nearby Greenvale rail line could be restored to haul the product to Townsville.
But the State Government, which ripped the line up in the 1990s and had indicated it could be restored, has been unable to negotiate an outcome.
The material for the trials, a form of iron ore called magnetite, was trucked to Townsville.
While Sir Mick was optimistic, he also played down its significance compared with the mountains of ore being shipped from West Australia’s Pilbara where BHP alone exports some 100 million tonnes a year.
About 15 million tonnes of ore had been proved at the Mount Moss deposit, Sir Mick said.
He said the first trial shipment was bound for China which imported around 1 billion tonnes a year and probably processed around double that amount a year.
“This is a very small drop in the bucket,” he said.
“We have a very modest deposit so we have to get a niche (market) to get a dollar. (The project) depends entirely on the reaction from our market.”
Sir Mick would not say which Chinese group was importing the trial shipment or what price it had achieved although he confirmed it was bound for a steel mill.
He said the magnetite could be used for steel making, for the washing of coal as a magnetite solution at coal mines or as a source of magnetite to weight coat oil and gas pipelines.
Townsville port business development manager Mel Marke said the port hoped the trial was a sign of good things to come with a regular trade of 500,000 tonnes a year.
“As well as being additional tonnage, it’s a new commodity for the port,” Mr Marke said.
Mr Marke said it could be the first shipment of iron ore from Australia’s east coast for around 130 years.
He believed about 20 tonnes had been shipped from Newcastle to Sheffield in the UK in 1881.
Mobile Conveying Services were operating an innovative mobile telescopic conveyors to load the ship.
Steverdore Northern Stevedoring Services, regional Queensland’s largest supply chain management provider, has been engaged to provide a suite of materials handling services to receive, stockpile and load the ore.
NSS general manager Todd Emmert said the loading had proceeded very well.
“It’s a good product to handle - a very clean product,” he said. “We are aiming to gross a (loading) rate of between 700 and 1000 tonnes an hour.”