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In the lead up to our 7th Annual Mining South Australia Conference, we will be showcasing 3 editions of interviews with the event’s key supporter organisations: Civil Contractors Federation SA, Whyalla Chamber of Commerce & Industry, South Australia Freight Council, Port Pirie Regional Council & Whyalla City Council. In this second edition, we turned our attention to regional infrastructure as a critical issue for mining projects. We asked our supporters what facilities does South Australia need most urgently, and why?
You can hear from them and others in full detail at the renowned event to be held in Whyalla on the 26-27 November.
A reliable base load power supply at a reasonable cost is critical, as is a deep water port at the top of the Gulf capable of moving minerals to shipping. A railway pathway to the deep water port is also in the critical mix.
At present the market is not providing this infrastructure which is critical to the development, growth and prosperity of South Australia. Given this market failure there is a role for Government to step in and make a public investment in this type of strategic infrastructure. Private and public companies should not own critical strategic infrastructure. These facilities must be accessible at a reasonable cost to all.
Regional infrastructure is critical for the efficient development and operation of many of the state’s natural resources. Access to electricity, water and efficient transportation corridors remain significant hurdles for many mining and energy projects.
The delivery of energy to remote mine sites in the Far North of the state is difficult and is where off-grid solutions are most likely to be employed. We see great value in unlocking mining and renewable energy investment through the augmentation of the grid and overall transmission capacity on the Eyre Peninsula. Additionally, an increased supply of gas to this region would further aid development of new projects but would also benefit existing communities and industries.
The South Australian government is already working on assessments of some regional groundwater reserves that could be used for mines and resource processing. An expansion of this would be warranted for much of the Far North of South Australia. Investment in strategically placed desalination along the state’s coastline would also be of significant value.
Finally, a bulk commodity export facility ready to service the Far North, Eyre Peninsula and Braemar Province within the Upper Spencer Gulf would provide the key infrastructure link that is currently missing for many miners. A flexible format to cater for new or emerging commodities would also provide a practical outcome.
Transport and logistics arrangements are rightly seen as being critical to the success of most mines, with new deep sea ports, haul roads, rail sidings and upgraded road intersections all required to facilitate the success of South Australian projects.
SAFC continues to play a role in facilitating collaboration between industry and governments as we believe South Australia requires an efficient, competitive, multi-modal, state-wide freight system that will ensure all South Australians reap the benefits of our resources.
The availability of efficient and effective port facilities in appropriate locations will contribute significantly to the development of many new mining ventures.
The building of new bulk port facilities at Port Bonython in the Upper Spencer Gulf, a 23km rail connection to the interstate main line, and possibly, a rail link from the isolated narrow gauge networks on Eyre Peninsula to the national network will be necessary. New rail spurs may be justified to connect sustainable mines to the rail network and, ultimately, the port.
Port Spencer/Cape Hardy on Eyre Peninsula, and Wallaroo/Myponie Point on Yorke Peninsula will initially develop as deep water ports (>15 metres draft) servicing specific company requirements, and are likely to expand into multi-user ports as mine development progresses.
Significant rail infrastructure will be required to move freight to the ports, with particular attention to rail capacity, speed and gauge. IMX’s Cairn Hill Iron Ore Project which commenced operations in December 2010 added several trains in each direction to the network and many other potential mines are assessing rail based logistics options which may significantly increase demand on key elements of the national rail network.
Rail capacity is dependent on crossing loops and therefore additional, longer loops are required to cope with longer trains, an expected increase in the number of ore trains, and to facilitate the interaction of trains travelling at different speeds. Axle load restrictions may also present limitations to train capacity in the future.
The Tarcoola-Crystal Brook portion of the interstate main line network, including the Whyalla spur, is logistically important for many mines in the region, and is close to capacity. Implementation of ARTC’s Advanced Train Management System (ATMS), installation of new crossing loops and potentially eventual duplication may be required to facilitate ore transport by rail, if and when new mines move into production. A rail bypass of Port Augusta will improve amenity in the township once rail traffic increases and a new connection to the Port Augusta-Whyalla rail spur (commonly referred to as the ‘Port Augusta Triangle’) will improve rail access to Port Bonython and Whyalla from the west and north of the State.
Intermodal terminals, where volumes are sufficient to support a business case, will be necessary to facilitate the transfer of freight to/from road and sea to rail. Terminal developments in strategic metropolitan and regional areas can also alleviate the demand for road investment to accommodate High Productivity Vehicles.
That being said, investment in our roads will be critical to the success of South Australia’s mining industry, especially considering the anticipated increase in B-Triple trucks, Road Trains and innovative new vehicles on the State’s road network.
These efficient vehicles will require an expansion of capacity on key roads leading to, and from, mines to alleviate the much talked about First/Last Mile issues which hamper the use of High Productivity Vehicles across the network. To ensure the safety of all road users, SAFC advocates for an increased number of passing lanes on roads anticipating increased traffic. These roads will also require regular maintenance and engineering improvements, including wider lanes and improved lines of sight, to ensure
Water is the key element that all “start up” industries require. We needed a desalination plant in regional South Australia more so than at Port Stanvac and the City of Adelaide!
Rail and pipeline facilities are then needed to take product to port or to the domestic consumer/processor. We then need a new port on western and eastern Spencer Gulf with the upgrade of at least two existing ports.
Businesses can’t address commodity prices and exchange rates, but regional infrastructure and their own business efficiencies can make them more competitive. With the former, the most critical of these in South Australia at this time are deep sea ports, duplication/expansion of liquefied gas, key rail and road links, other power needs and water. If South Australia’s infrastructure isn’t economically competitive, the State will get left behind. Deep water port facilities are probably the most important need because a recent study has shown that transhipment can add $16 per tonne to the cost of exporting iron ore.