The way has been cleared for several new major mining projects in Western Australia to go ahead following the announcement today of a $16.5 million upgrade of the Leonora-Esperance railway line.
Premier Carmen Lawrence said improving the carrying capacity of the line would make it viable for Portman Mining to re-open its Koolyanobbing iron ore mine in March next year.
At a news conference today Dr Lawrence and Treasurer John Dawkins announced that the Federal Government would fund the upgrading of the rail line.
"The rail and Koolyanobbing projects will create jobs for more than 260 people," Dr Lawrence said.
"However, upgrading the 650 km line will also benefit other important projects, providing even further jobs."
Mr Dawkins said the Federal Government would provide $16.5 million over two years towards the cost of improving the line.
"The funds will lead to future investment in WA's resources sector," said Mr Dawkins.
The Premier said Portman Mining would rail 1.5 million tonnes of ore annually from Koolyanobbing to Esperance, where the port could accommodate 60,000 tonne vessels after dredging. A new high capacity ore-loading facility was also under construction.
Portman's first shipment of ore to China would be towards the end of next year.
Other projects to benefit from improving the rail link were:
· Western Mining Corporation's expansion of its nickel concentrate operations at Leinster and development of its deposit at Mount Keith;
· the development of Dominion Mining's nickel concentrate deposits at Yakabindi;
· Shell's fuel haulage operations for various base metal projects.
Dr Lawrence said the rail link between Esperance and the Goldfields had played an important role in the development of the region since 1927.
It was used mainly for transporting minerals, grain and fuel.
"Upgrading the track is a matter of replacing sleepers and other associated work and the economic spin-off for WA will be significant," Dr Lawrence said.
The Koolyanobbing mine, which closed in 1983 would employ 120 people in the construction stage, provide on-going work for 66 employees and extra jobs for contractors and service personnel.
The rail project, due to start next month, would employ 25 people and when in operation would create jobs for 36 enginemen and 14 additional staff at the Esperance Port Authority.
"This infrastructure development is significant for WA as it opens up a strategically important region and permits more competition between port authorities," Dr Lawrence said.