You might think that most mining companies in Western Australia use rail lines to link their mines to the ship loading facilities of Port Hedland.
This is not always the case, especially for junior iron ore mining companies like Atlas Iron, who rely on fleets of haulage trucks.
Heavy vehicle operators in high demand in WA
One of the biggest attractions for people looking to work in the high-paying Western Australian mining industry is the opportunity to drive monster haul trucks. Not all the mining jobs WA is famous for involve working on a mine site.
There are many other jobs that allow workers to experience what it’s like to traverse the wide open spaces of the Pilbara behind the wheel of huge road trains that transport iron ore to the shipping hub of Port Hedland.
“demand is still high for heavy vehicle operators in WA”
Despite what you may read in the media, demand is still high for dump truck operators and heavy vehicle drivers because the method of drill and blast as well as strip-mining is the preferred method of mining.
Both of these methods of iron ore mining require the use of fleets of dump trucks, excavators, loaders and other heavy machinery, to get the iron ore from one location to another.
However, there is also a great need for experienced heavy vehicle operators who can safely operate large road trains across vast distances.
Remote mining in WA creates new challenges for road haulage companies
Just about all of the Pilbara mining operations require the iron ore to be processed on-site, then stockpiled in preparation for transport to the coastal shipping facilities.
Mining companies who do not have access to extensive rail networks have to choose the traditional method of ‘road-train’ type haulage operations. Loading fleets of huge trucks is an intricate process and involves the use of highly skilled operators and safe drivers who typically must drive hundreds of kilometres every day.
“smaller mining companies rely on a network of roads”
One such mining company worth mentioning is Atlas Iron who operate several iron ore mines in the WA Pilbara region. Owing to their relatively small size compared to mining giant like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, they must rely on a network of roads to get the iron ore to the coastal loading facilities.
Many people who dream of getting a job in the WA mining industry, don’t really understand what is involved in the mining process.
It’s not just the mining aspect that challenges mining companies – it’s the logistics of moving iron ore that is the real issue. There’s no point in developing a mine if the raw materials can’t be transported with ease.
Atlas Iron partners with McAleese
The problem for Atlas Iron is they can’t access the existing rail networks built by big mining companies. It’s quite common for mining companies not to share their rail networks, partly due to the location of the rail networks in relation to the mine sites, and partly due to the fact that they just don’t want to share their costly resource.
“successfully using road networks”
Failure to share rail assets is a way of squeezing the competitors out of the marketplace and limiting the competition.
Atlas however have been successfully using road networks to get their product to the ship loading terminals using a third party contractor.
McAleese are the haulage contractors who are responsible for iron ore logistics management. Their job is to transport the iron ore in the most efficient manner possible using their fleet of road-trains.
With Atlas Iron increasing its iron ore mining capacity, the time has come to cement a new relationship with McAleese. The transport company won its fifth haulage contract with Atlas Iron at the end of 2013.
“contract valued at about $250 million”
It was a four year contract, and is valued at about $250 million. The terms of the contract involve McAleese loading and hauling around 3 million tonnes of iron ore per year. This new contract is expected to begin in June 2014.
Under the new agreement, haulage levels will increase to six million tonnes a year by January 2015. Adding the extra tonnage will give the company over $220 million in additional revenue over the term of this new contract.
“$30 million in new equipment”
It’s also estimated that McAleese will itself invest somewhere in the region of $30 million in new equipment and associated infrastructure, which includes workshops and additional trucks and trailers.
Looking for mining jobs WA driving heavy vehicles? Do you dream of driving a dump truck or operating a road train in the Pilbara?
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