To develop Australia’s biggest magnetite mine means big infrastructure to support it, so CITIC Pacific Mining has developed a fully integrated export facility, featuring the first greenfields port to be built in the Pilbara for 40 years.
Barges deliver magnetite concentrate to bulk carriers waiting offshore and local businesses are benefiting from the additional workforce, activity and investment in the area.
“In the last year or two we’ve put about $9 million into the economy through local and national businesses that have outlets here in Karratha,” Marine Asset Manager Rhys Fleming explains.
“Everywhere from the local pharmacy, Blackwood’s and the local carrying companies.”
The barges are taken from Cape Preston to nearby Dampier where they’re maintained and repaired on five-year cycles.
“Once you do the repairs you get a clean bit of health and then we run for another five years and we do it all again,” says Rhys.
Dock Master at MMA Offshore in Dampier, Andrew Jenkins, has lived in northern WA for 10 years with his family and works with a full-time team of 11 staff and up to 60 contractors who run and operate the shipyard.
“We are working with 120-metre barges and we have 140 metres of hardstand, so the dock is fully utilised for the time that the barge is at the dock,” he says.
“For the (Sino Iron) barges that we had up recently we had about 20 painting contractors and 10 structural contractors.,” says Andrew.
Karratha-based Brendan Mooney is a boilermaker at Marine and Construction Services and part of the team who sub-contract for MMA Offshore.
“We’ve got a core group of about half a dozen people who we employ full-time and this can grow to 12-18 workers depending on how busy we are,” he says.
“You have something that comes in broken, you tear it apart and then put it back together. There is a sense of accomplishment after it’s complete.”
The pace of work at the facility doesn’t prevent the team taking a moment to enjoy the view, however.
“You look around at all of this beautiful scenery and it’s very panoramic,” Brendan says.
“It’s a great place to work.”