Mineral Resources says its Onslow Iron project has reached a major milestone with the successful launch of Western Australia’s first shallow draft and fully enclosed transhipper.
Transhippers, designed by MinRes in collaboration with naval architects, as well as local and international engineering firms, are key to this large iron ore project. The vessels significantly reduce the project’s cost and environmental footprint as their shallow draft means millions of tonnes of iron ore can be shipped without the need for a deep-water port, according to MinRes.
Transhippers are also an integral part of MinRes’ dust-free mine-to-ship transport solution as they will be fully enclosed to ensure no dust pollution in Onslow from MinRes operations, it added.
Each transhipper is named after an island off the Pilbara coast, with the first, MinRes Airlie, launched into the water in March, one year after construction started at the COSCO shipyard in Zhoushan, China.
Onslow Iron will see ore transported by fully covered road trains along a dedicated haul road from the Ken’s Bore mine, 150 km east of Onslow, to the Port of Ashburton. At the port, the ore is transferred to a 220,000 t enclosed negative pressure storage facility. From there, it will be moved via covered conveyors into the transhipper’s “hopper” storage area.
At 123-m long and 36-m wide, the transhippers will have a 7-m draft when fully loaded, transporting ore to capesize bulk carriers anchored 40 km off the Pilbara coast.
This design drastically reduced the amount of seabed dredging required for the loading berth at the Port of Ashburton, according to MinRes
“When operating off the Pilbara coast, the five transhippers will be propelled by powerful tugs that provide crew with home-like comforts and high spec finishes,” the company said.
Transhippers are equipped with a loading system that distributes the ore throughout the vessel’s hold. Once ready for discharge, the ore drops onto conveyors that feed a loading boom into capesize bulk carriers.
MinRes Managing Director, Chris Ellison, said: “The successful launch of our first transhipper, MinRes Airlie, is a significant milestone in the development of our Onslow Iron project, which is set to redefine mining in Western Australia. Transhippers are just the latest example of the cutting-edge innovation being designed and developed by MinRes and are crucial to how we will unlock stranded iron ore deposits in the West Pilbara.
“The unique design of these shallow draft vessels means we don’t need to build deep-water berths, drastically reducing both the cost and environmental footprint of this landmark project. The interior fit-out of these vessels demonstrates our commitment to setting a new standard for workplace wellness, whether our people work in our state-of-the-art headquarters in Perth or at sea on a transhipper.”
MinRes’ A$3 billion ($2 billion) Onslow Iron project is, MinRes says, set to redefine mining in Western Australia, shipping around 35 Mt/y of iron ore from mid-2024.
Fitting out of MinRes Airlie will continue throughout 2023 ahead of an expected arrival in Western Australia early next year.
Onslow Iron is owned through the unincorporated Red Hill Iron Joint Venture, which is 40% held by MinRes, who will manage the project, with the other partners being Baowu, AMCI and POSCO.