Yukihiko Matsumura, chief executive of Japanese backer Marubeni Corp, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying that Gina Rinehart’s Pilbara initiative should have an agreement in place by the end of the month.
Mr Matsumura made the announcement as his firm, which owns a 15 per cent stake in Roy Hill, released its third-quarter financial results.
A Roy Hill spokesman refused to confirm the deadlines, but admitted commercial lending arrangements were making “good progress”.
He added: “We have in-principle agreement to key terms, but there is still a lot of documentation to finalise.”
The news followed an influx of staff to the site in January. The West Australian reported major construction ramped up significantly over the Christmas period, with over 1,700 personnel working on the project by the new year.
Roy Hill’s equity partners are now approaching $4 billion worth of investment on the initiative, which is expected to deliver 55 million tonnes of iron ore a year.
Investors have continued to provide money for the operation while the debt negotiations were ongoing. Furthermore, figures from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show there is still close to $1 billion in equity contributions available.
Global export credit agencies have already committed $4 billion to the project and it is understood that commercial lending confirmation will be the last part of the debt package.
BNP Paribas and National Bank Australia are heading the bookbuild for the commercial debt. However, Mr Matsumura also confirmed that Japan’s super banks – Mizuho Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi – would also be involved.
The $10 billion port, rail and mining engineering project is expected to provide a substantial boost to the regional economy over its forecasted 20-year lifecycle.