SA needs deeper ports for iron ore
By Verity Edwards
THE chief executive of one of the most profitable ports in the nation says South Australia desperately needs to deepen its facilities, or the state’s iron ore market will not be viable in the long term.
Flinders Ports’ Vincent Tremaine told the American Chamber of Commerce (SA) in Adelaide that iron ore would be profitable if the state could cater for 200,000-tonne ships, but these required ports with a depth of at least 20m.
“It’s lower value, it requires big ships, it therefore requires deep water and that’s really difficult to deliver,” Mr Tremaine said. “You’re talking massive structures and incredible expense.”
South Australia’s deepest port is the 20m Santos-owned and exclusively operated jetty at Pt Bonython to service its mining needs. Pt Adelaide is the next deepest at 14.2m.
Privately owned Flinders Ports, which operates 10 ports in SA, is preparing an environmental impact statement for a facility at Pt Bonython parallel to the Santos jetty, which could service BHP Billiton’s Roxby Downs expansion and other mining operations in the state’s north.
Mr Tremaine said the new port would cost at least $600 million to develop and could take at least four years to complete.
The port would initially cater for 20 million tonnes and could be quickly adjusted to process 60 million tonnes.
But he said without a deep port, the export of iron ore would not be profitable for SA miners.
“It’s got to have scale, if it doesn’t have scale, then at some stage it’s going to be tough for some of these mines to keep going.” Mr Tremaine said there were about 6-7 billion tonnes of the ore to be mined in SA and a deeper port would be essential.