400 jobs to build $500m Qld mine after major deal

 

Mining giant Glencore has signed an agreement for Mitsubishi ­Development to buy a 30 per cent stake in its $500m Aurukun bauxite project in Queensland's western Cape York, ahead of an investment decision on the mine due late next year.

Glencore will retain a 70 per cent stake and remain the operator as it assesses the feasibility of pressing ahead with its first greenfield mine project in Australia for at least a decade.

The mine, 23km northeast of Aurukun, would operate for more than 20 years, with annual production of 8 million tonnes of bauxite a year. It would employ 400 workers once it starts production, with another 250 jobs over a two-year construction phase.

An environmental impact statement will be open for consultation in mid-year with a final investment decision expected in about 18 months, setting it up for a green light in the final quarter of next year.

Glencore and Mitsubishi will split sales of the metal-making raw material in line with their respective stakes. The total resource is 357 million tonnes, with the commodity scooped up from shallow pits using a truck and loader operation.

Bauxite is a rock ore that is ­refined into alumina, which is then turned into aluminium in a smelter.

"We were approached by a number of parties interested to participate in the project and are pleased to have selected Mitsubishi, with whom Glencore has previous experience in joint ventures to jointly progress this opportunity," said Glencore's project director, Julian Farrugia.

Mitsubishi noted the deal would still hinge on receiving mining leases, including the development of agreements with traditional owners.

"As a Japanese company we have a deep respect for cultural heritage. We acknowledge the strong connection the traditional owners have with the land and will strive to earn their trust," said Mitsubishi Development's head of business strategy and planning, Kenji Azuma.

Mr Farrugia has previously noted the understanding of "who speaks for whom and for different parts of the land" is well defined at Aurukun, noting the Indigenous community held its first encounters with mining development in the late 1950s.

Cape York Indigenous leaders last year backed a $300m Aurukun port proposal by private resource company Aurum Pacific comprising a multi-industry facility for bulk ore and live exports, capable of handling 12 million tonnes of bauxite a year.

The Brisbane-based firm - which has interests in local and overseas mines, including bauxite operations in the Solomon ­Islands - has been backed by Cape York leaders including NAK chair Barbara Bandicootcha, CYLC chair Richie Ah Mat and Noel Pearson.

Rio Tinto, one of Glencore's chief rivals, started shipping bauxite from its Amrun mine in Cape York two years ago to customers in China and south to its Gladstone alumina operation.

Amrun, about 200km from Aurukun, replaced depleting production from its East Weipa mine and added a further 10 million tonnes to its annual bauxite ­capacity.

Rio has the potential to ultimately boost production from the mine to 50 million tonnes, although any decision on a further expansion is unlikely to be made until well into the next decade.

Originally published as 400 jobs to build $500m Qld mine after major deal


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