Wednesday 17th Jan, 2018

SA aims for 50mtpa magnetite mining, processing sector

Magnetite production flow chart. Graphic: SIMEC Mining
Magnetite production flow chart. Graphic: SIMEC Mining

South Australia would mine and process 50 million tonnes of magnetite products a year under a 15-year plan released by the State Government on December 8.

The state’s new Magnetite Strategy lays out a plan to deliver an “ambitious target” of $10 billion of investment in the state’s magnetite resource by 2030.

“By capitalising on the emerging global demand for higher-grade iron products, South Australia has an opportunity to position itself as a leading global magnetite-producing region,” strategy committee chairman Ted Tyne writes in the 36-page document.

South Australia has 44% of Australia’s magnetite, the Government estimates, but currently produces just 3 million tonnes of the steel precursor each year. Just two operators – GFG Alliance and CU-River Mining Australia – currently produce magnetite in the state.

The strategy, released at the South Australian Exploration and Mining Conference in Adelaide last Friday, sets out to encourage further investment not only by attracting new producers, but by promoting South Australian magnetite to international steelmakers.

The first goal of the strategy is to establish a magnetite research and development alliance in the state by December 2019.

Future goals include the opening of magnetite mines on the Eyre Peninsula, the Braemar Province and Far North South Australia by 2027, with a new deepwater port on the Spencer Gulf providing export capacity.

The plan also recognises new Whyalla Steelworks owner GFG Alliance’s own ongoing assessment of South Australia’s magnetite sector.

GFG Alliance – comprising the Liberty House Group and SIMEC Group – bought the steelworks earlier this year, and is assessing options to grow magnetite ore production from the current capacity of 2mtpa to as much as 20mtpa.

Improved local procurement strategies from governments at the state and federal levels would support this, the strategy explains, while exports would remain the major driver of growth.

“Increasing global demand for more energy efficient, high-grade magnetite has created an opportunity for South Australia to unlock the potential of its substantial magnetite assets,” South Australian resources and energy minister Tom Koutsantonis said.

“South Australia already has two magnetite exporters and this Strategy will enable us to more than double that number by encouraging investment in several world-class projects.”

Koutsantonis, also the state’s treasurer, said the strategy would help strengthen and diversify the South Australian economy by creating jobs, boosting exports and generating new business opportunities for regions.

“Not only do we want to attract investment, we want to ensure we maximise the benefits to the South Australian community and build the State’s international reputation as a reliable supplier of high-quality magnetite products,” he added.