The State Government has approved a plan to significantly extend the life of Iluka Resources’ mineral sands processing facility near Geraldton - the biggest employer in the Geraldton region.
The plan will allow Iluka to import 600,000 tonnes of heavy mineral concentrate from South Australia and process it at the Narngulu facility.
Premier Alan Carpenter said the plan would extend the life of the plant by more than 10 years.
He said legislation would be introduced into the spring session of State Parliament to amend the State Agreement covering Iluka’s Mid-West operations and allow the plan to be adopted.
“This arrangement will allow Iluka to maintain its considerable presence in the Mid-West region, despite the expected decline in production from its Eneabba mining leases as known reserves are exhausted,” Mr Carpenter said.
“The company is already the largest employer in the Geraldton community and will be able to offer longer-term security to its 240 full-time workers at Narngulu, as well as new contract employment to many more engineers and transport workers.”
The Premier said Iluka had also proposed a $60million upgrade of its processing facilities to accommodate the plan.
He said this expansion would predominantly use local contractors and suppliers.
Resources Minister Francis Logan said Iluka’s Jacinth-Ambrosia deposit in South Australia contained an estimated six million tonnes of heavy mineral concentrate.
Mr Logan said shipments from the South Australian port of Ceduna to Geraldton were expected to begin in early 2010, with up to 350,000 tonnes of zircon to be produced at Narngulu each year.
“This plan has broad support from industry and government and will significantly increase the $120million Iluka already spends in the Mid-West each year,” he said.
“In a further boost to the area, Iluka has agreed to the removal of the unimproved value rating clause in the State Agreement, which will allow local government authorities to rate the company’s operations on gross rental value as they would similar operations.”
Geraldton MLA Shane Hill welcomed the announcement and said it was particularly good news for Iluka Resources employees and their families.
“This news gives further confidence that Geraldton has the infrastructure to support this expansion,” Mr Hill said.
“The expansion of the Narngulu facility will create new jobs during the construction phase and, just as importantly, deliver employment certainty to Iluka workers, now and for years to come.”
Iluka Resources managing director David Robb thanked the State Government for its support in facilitating the expansion plans.
“Iluka has been a major employer and direct economic contributor to the Mid West region for more than 30 years,” Mr Robb said.
“Allowing Iluka to process ore mined from sources other than the Eneabba mining leases is a logical way to extend mineral sands processing operations in Western Australia.
“It is an outcome which should be viewed favourably by all stakeholders involved in this major industry in the Mid-West.”
Premier’s office - 9222 9475
Minister for Resource's office - 9222 8950