WA mining companies are continuing to break production records – and it’s not just the big miners achieving phenomenal results.
Junior iron-ore miner Atlas Iron recently reported record shipments during the three months to March 2014, even though bad weather in the Pilbara hampered operations.
WA mining company Atlas Iron – a strong achiever
WA mining giants like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton hit the headlines quite frequently, however there are smaller mining companies achieving big results.
Atlas Iron owns and operates several iron ore mining projects in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. Recently, the managing director of Atlas Iron Ken Brinsden announced that Atlas had shipped 2.73-million tonnes during this recent quarter. Added to the 2.7-million tonnes shipped in the previous quarter, this breaks all previous records for the proactive WA mining company.
“breaks all previous records”
Again highlighting how mining investment takes a back seat and productivity becomes the real driver of profitability, Brinsden makes it clear that Atlas has shipped more ore during the nine months to March than throughout the entire previous year.
This is an incredible achievement and something that would almost have been unheard of 24 months ago, even when the industry was riding the crest of the commodities boom.
“This was a solid quarter for Atlas, particularly considering that this period in the Pilbara is always a bit tricky in terms of dealing with the weather, the hangovers from a cyclone right at the end of last calendar year, and then Cyclone Christine at the end of January”, Mr Brinsden said.
One of the positives that contributed to the record production was that the company had focussed on a new strategy which allowed for the stockpiling of iron ore at the port and at the mine site. This in itself allowed the company to maintain steady WA mining production during the heavy downpours that were typical in the Pilbara.
“the company had focussed on a new mining strategy”
Mr Brinsden also said Atlas Iron’s Wodgina and Abydos projects were progressing and that the company remains confident of meeting their production targets in 2014 of between 10.2-million tonnes and 10.7-million tonnes shipped.
Atlas Iron have also started to reduce iron ore mining activity at its West Australian Pardoo and Mt Dove operations, as they near the end of their mining life-cycle. Pardoo has been placed on a care and maintenance program ensuring the mine can still be reactivated should the need ever arise.
“push through additional tonnage”
Iron ore production from the Pardoo and Mt Dove operations would be supplemented by increased mining activity at the remaining mine sites, with the excess crushing capacity at Mt Dove used to push through additional tonnage from Wodgina.
Mt Webber mine production ramps up
The other Atlas Iron mining operation at Mt Webber was also targeted for first haulage to begin the June quarter of 2014.
Stage 1 of the Mt Webber project was expected to produce about three-million tonnes per year. Atlas has also approved the Stage 2 development of Mt Webber, which could see a 100 per cent lift in production to somewhere in the region of six-million tonnes a year by the end of December 2014.
“100 per cent lift in production envisaged”
All environmental approvals have been secured for the Stage 2 development.
Atlas Iron – the proactive junior miner
As if this latest news for Atlas is not enough, the company are also finalising plans for access to a new iron ore mining hub as part of their McPhee Creek mine and rail prefeasibility study, which was also reaching its conclusion. The increased work was mostly driven by drilling at the Corunna Downs project, which has proved to be an outstanding success for the company.
“an outstanding success for the company”
One of the most common activities for some of the WA mining companies who run several mining operations close to one another in the Pilbara, is to produce a ‘blend’ of iron ore. This ‘blending’ is a way to create a unique product and to enhance lower grade deposits with those of the higher grade deposits.
Fortescue Metals Group was one of the first big mining companies to promote its own blend called of course – the Fortescue Blend, using iron ore from its four WA mining operations to create a truly marketable product.
“Atlas creates their own aggregate and blended iron ore product”
Atlas Iron have followed suit with their own aggregate and blend around the McPhee Creek operation, before the ore is dispatched to Port Hedland. This option will allow for a staged capital investment, which will minimise the up-front capital costs and help manage cash-flow for the company.
Iron ore price – the reality for Atlas Iron
Atlas has estimated their iron ore production costs at around US$50 per tonne. Currently the iron ore price is hovering around the $110 a tonne range, allowing Atlas Iron to maintain a profitable mining operation. The larger WA mining companies who are active in the Pilbara, such as Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group have production costs almost half that of Atlas Iron.
“a stable career outlook”
When looking for WA mining work, it’s always advisable to research the companies thoroughly before deciding which ones offer a stable career outlook. Examining the miner’s operating costs and profitability is the first place to look.
Atlas made a net profit of $73.7 million in the first half of the 2013/14 financial year.
Atlas’s long term aim is to ship up to 46 million tonnes per year.
Atlas Iron (AGO) are also listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, where additional information and insights into the mining company can be found.
Information for job seekers
Atlas Iron Limited is a West Australian mining company involved in the exploration, development, mining and sale of iron ore (hematite).
Core mining activity for Atlas centres around the operations of the Pardoo, Wodgina and Mt Dove iron ore mines in Western Australia and the development of the mines at Abydos and Mt Webber in the Pilbara region in Western Australia.
In addition to its Pardoo, Wodgina and Mt Dove DSO operating mines, Atlas Iron is commissioning the Abydos DSO mine and the Utah Point (ship loading facility at Port hedland) interim solution and actively developing the Mt Webber mine.
Atlas also is focused on future development and feasibility of its Horizon 2 projects, which include McPhee Creek.
The Pardoo Project is located approximately 75 kilometers east of Port Hedland.
- The Wodgina DSO Project is located approximately 100 kilometers south of Port Hedland on the Great Northern Highway.
- The Mt Dove mine is located approximately 65 kilometers south of Port Hedland
- The Abydos Project is located approximately 130 kilometers south of Port Hedland.