Mining

Karara is the largest mining operation in the Mid West region and one of only two operating magnetite mines in WA. The Karara Iron Ore Project is located 220 kilometres south-east of Geraldton in the Shire of Perenjori.

Magnetite ore is mined from a large scale (12 m bench height) open pit mine in a traditional load and haul mining operation using conventional face shovels, large capacity (230 tonne) off-road haul trucks, a fleet of large diameter blast-hole drill rigs and a range of ancillary mobile mining equipment.

Karara has grown the project to a multi-billion tonne mineral resource, which is capable of sustaining a long life of mine (+30 years). The project comprises a large, complex and fully integrated mining, processing and transport logistics operation designed to produce 8 Mtpa of premium, high-grade magnetite concentrate for export to China to our offtake partner Ansteel for use in steelmaking

Processing

Magnetite ore known as Run-of-Mine (ROM) material is direct dumped by haul trucks from the mine into the primary crusher. Primary and secondary crushers crush the ROM ore to a product size of <60 mm. The crushed ore is then transferred to the Coarse Ore Stockpile (COS), which has a holding capacity of up to 500,000 tonnes of material for downstream processing.

Ore material from the COS is reclaimed by conveyor into a parallel train of two High-Pressure Grinding Rolls (HPGR’s), which grind the ore to a size of 4 mm or smaller. This ore material from the HPGRs is pumped in a slurry to a stage one magnetic separation. A high magnetic field allows separation of non-magnetic material to tailings. Magnetic material remains as a concentrate and is transferred to the primary grinding plant.

The primary grinding plant of four ball mills grinds the ore in slurry into fine particle sizes of <50 µm before further magnetic separation to produce a concentrated magnetite ore stream, with elevated Iron (Fe) grades of ~58%.

Upgrading to final product specification occurs in the flotation circuit. Concentrate is filtered to achieve moisture levels <10% and a final, premium concentrate product with Fe grades of +65%. Product is then transferred by rail to Karara’s Export Terminal at the Port of Geraldton.

Tailings material generated in the ore treatment process is filtered for dry tails stacking where possible, reducing discharge of tailings to Karara’s wet tailings storage facility (TSF), or tailings dam. This enables Karara to reduce water usage and minimise the environmental impact and footprint of tailings material.

Water Use and Water Monitoring

Karara has been monitoring the Yandanooka borefield and the Parmelia aquifer for the past 5 years in partnership with the Mingenew Irwin Group. Groundwater levels across the Parmelia aquifer have continued to rise despite Karara’s current abstraction of 5 gigalitres per annum (Glpa) over the past 5 years.

Available monitoring data from the Yandanooka borefield and regionally across the Parmelia aquifer system, indicate that additional water can be sustainably sourced from this aquifer. Karara believes a modest increase in water allocation from 5 to 7 Glpa is sustainable, following scientific research and hydrogeological modelling compiled by Rockwater Pty Ltd, a leading independent hydrogeological and environmental consultant. The research suggests that an increased abstraction from the Parmelia aquifer will not harm the aquifer or the surface environment, and may in fact be beneficial in the management of issues associated with rising water tables in the area.

Karara will continue working closely with landowners, local businesses, communities and Government to achieve a sustainable and responsible outcome around long-term water usage and to ensure the long-term viability of the Karara Iron Ore Project.

Water Lincensing

In 2017 the Karara Iron Ore Project achieved an annual iron ore concentrate production rate of 8 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa). Karara is now examining opportunities to increase its production rate beyond 8Mtpa consistently, as part of a broader strategy to improve the long-term economic viability of its magnetite mining operation.

To achieve an iron ore production rate increase from 8 to 8.3Mtpa consistently, Karara will require an increase in water allocation for the Project. Karara has recently submitted an application with the Department of Water and Environment Regulation (DWER) for an increase in its existing water licence allocation from 5 to 7 Glpa per annum with a 5C water licence application. DWER will now conduct a separate water review of the groundwater area and assess any availability of water. If DWER determines that allocation limits can be increased, Karara will then advertise a water licence application and public consultation will commence.

Applications to amend or renew a water licence are assessed on an individual, transparent and equitable basis in accordance with the requirements of the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 and licensing policies and water allocation plans. There is a defined application process to amend an existing water licence. With a formal opportunity for community and stakeholders to comment to DWER with the assessment of the application by DWER (Read more)

Local Content Policy

As a significant partner within the regional community, we recognise that Karara has the potential to support, enable or generate diverse and sustainable opportunities across the community including business development, skills development, direct and indirect employment, contracting, and the supply of goods, materials and services. We are always interested to receive expressions of interest from potential suppliers of goods or services at any of our locations at the mine, the Port of Geraldton or in our Perth office.

Under our Local Content Policy commitments, we undertake to:

  • Invite local/regional businesses to tender and ensure equal opportunity for participation in our business under consistent terms, standards and conditions for all tenderers.
  • Work with local government, industry advocates and businesses to provide commercial or other feedback to assist the development of local businesses.
  • Provide transparent information to local businesses as early as possible about potential procurement, supply or service opportunities and tendering requirements.
  • Promote and support opportunities for the participation of indigenous workers, indigenous businesses and indigenous community groups.
  • Consider the capability of local businesses in the development of procurement strategies and contract work scopes to identify and support opportunities to increase local content.
  • Ensure that local content is a key evaluation criterion in the Karara’s tender and contract award processes and to maintain data and reporting on local content activities and performance.
  • Give preference to tenderers who are able to demonstrate the capacity to develop local capability and increase local content in labour or materials, where comparative bids may be determined as acceptable based on safety, commercial, and technical requirements.
  • Prioritise safety in all contract review and award processes so that safety performance and outcomes are enhanced through any supply engagement.

Infrastructure

Since project inception, Karara has invested a total of >AUD$4 billion in the initial establishment of critical infrastructure and in ongoing capital and other infrastructure requirements. Surplus capacity has been built in to cater for any potential future expansion of the operation.

Our critical infrastructure and logistics chain include:

  • An 80 km rail spur, connecting the Karara Mine to the common-user rail system;
  • Upgrade of common-user rail system section between Karara and Geraldton;
  • A 180 km 330 kV power transmission line from Eneabba to connect Karara with the south-west power grid;
  • A 140 km water pipeline to supply process water from a dedicated bore-field; and
  • The Karara Export Terminal at the Port of Geraldton, able to handle up to 16 Mtpa of export product from a dedicated berth, with associated rail and train unloading infrastructure.

Magnetite

Karara comprises a large-scale, long-life magnetite orebody amenable to bulk mining and processing.

Magnetite ore has lower iron content (34-36% Fe) than hematite ore (58-64% Fe). It must be upgraded by a complex ore treatment process (beneficiation) to produce a high-grade (+65% Fe) concentrate for steelmaking.

Its magnetic properties enable magnetite to be refined to a premium concentrate product that is globally accepted and highly sought after as to produce high quality, low impurity steel.

The treatment and beneficiation of magnetite ore requires crushing, screening, high-pressure grinding, magnetic separation, filtering and drying to produce a premium, high iron grade concentrate with very low impurities.

Further processing by Karara’s customers involves the agglomeration and thermal treatment of concentrate to produce pellets, which can be used directly in either a blast furnace or direct reduction steelmaking plant.

The additional “up-front” and higher costs involved with the extra processing required to produce magnetite concentrate is offset by the significant price premiums that high grade, high-quality concentrate commands from steel mills, compared to conventional (hematite) benchmark iron ore products.

Hematite

The early development of Karara was supported through the exploitation of small-scale satellite deposits of hematite iron ore. Australia’s iron ore industry is historically based on the mining, production and export of high-grade hematite iron ore. Hematite ore makes up the bulk of Australia’s iron ore production and of the global seaborne trade in iron ore. High-grade hematite which can be shipped directly to customers after simple processing (crushing, screening, sorting and blending) is often referred to as ‘Direct Shipping Ore’ or DSO.

The satellite hematite orebodies at Karara that were known to be economic have been mined and are now exhausted.

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