JUNIOR explorer Polaris Metals, a subsidiary of Mineral Resources, has announced that its automated train load-out system was commissioned in conjunction with loading of the first iron ore train from its Carina mine for dispatch to Fremantle.
In a statement for the quarter ended September 2011, the company said that the train, which consisted of 93 wagons each carrying about 65 tonnes of Carina ore, would provide an opportunity for it to commission each aspect of the site facilities.
Polaris added, that along with production trains to follow, the train would provide material to test and commission unloading facilities and the refurbished ship loading equipment at the port when the first vessel is alongside Berth 2 at Fremantle Ports’ Kwinana Bulk Terminal from November 15.
According to the statement, development of the Carina mine – which is in the company’s highly-prospective Yilgarn Iron Ore Project (YIOP), 50km north of Koolyanobbing in WA – was on track to begin production in late 2011. Mine infrastructure was almost
complete, environmental approvals were already in place, and a temporary crushingplant had been commissioned and was fully operational.
A balloon rail loop had been completed and licenced to receive trains, and a 50km haul road running from the deposit in the north to the rail siding in the south had been built to carry ore road trains. Berth 2 was operational and able to receive ore in accordance with the first train schedule, and a ship load-out facility was ready for commissioning. Airstrip construction was in progress and expected to be completed in December 2011.
In a project update in May 2011, the company said that the mine would deliver 2.7 million tonnes per annum of iron ore at project start-up with one train, and would ramp up to 4.4mtpa of iron ore when the second train became available in the first quarter of 2012.
The YIOP encompasses about 1000sqkm of mining tenements, most of which are wholly-owned by Polaris. The project consists of five prospects – Carina, Chamaeleon, Bungalbin East, J4 and J5 – with a total exploration potential for direct shipping ore (DSO) resources of 100 to 150mt grading 57 to 59 per cent iron.
At the time of writing, Polaris expected to bring stage one of the YIOP – comprising the Carina and Chamaeleon prospects – into production by late 2011. The company reported that, in its first stage, the project is expected to produce between 3.5 and 4.5mtpa of iron ore.
Stage one has exploration potential of between 40 and 50mt of DSO, with indicated and inferred resources of 26.7mt grading58.9 per cent iron at Carina, while drilling completed to February 2009, indicated the potential for between 2 and 5mt of mineralisation at Chamaeleon. According to a project overview on the company’s website, reconnaissance mapping between the two prospects revealed surface outcropping of goethite-hematite ores and strong potential for an additional 5 to 10mt of mineralisation.
The goethite-hematite product is low in silica and alumina, and benchmarks favourably against BHP Billiton iron ore and Rio Tinto’s Yarri products – making it attractive to overseas customers.
The mineralisation is across a 1.6km strike length to a maximum depth of 220m below surface, with widths averaging between 40 and 50m. The May update said the site would comprise a single open pit of about 40 hectares, 1500m long by 380m at its widest point, extending to 170m at its deepest point. Mined ore will be deposited on a run of mine pad and then transported on a haul road to be crushed, screened and stockpiled at Polaris’ plant next to a rail loading facility.
Following processing, the lump and fines product will be loaded onto the train for transport to Berth 2 in Fremantle. According to the project overview, the potential for rapid development of stage one at a moderate cost was enhanced by its close proximity to existing multi-user rail and port infrastructure: it is just 50km from the Perth-Kalgoorlie railway, and Polaris has secured 4.4mtpa of port access at Berth 2. Prefeasibility modelling completed in mid-2008 found the $197 million project to be viable, with operating costs per tonne of iron ore expected to be competitive at US$30 to $35 freight on board.
Stage two of the YIOP, comprising the Bungalbin East, J4 and J5 prospects, has total exploration potential of between 74 and 100mt DSO iron ore grading 57 to 60 per cent iron.
Polaris’s wholly-owned Mayfield high-grade magnetite deposit also represents significant long-term value for the company. Drilling completed by a previous owner estimated potential for between 100 and 150mt of DSO ore and high-grade, course-grained magnetite ore at 45 to 50 per cent iron. The Mayfield project is expected to deliver 69 per cent iron ore concentrate using traditionalgrinding and wet separation processing, or a fines-equivalent product containing about 60 per cent DSO iron ore through simple
crushing and dry beneficiation.
According to Polaris’s most recent quarterly statement, a program of work has been submitted for a 55-hole reverse circulation program designed to test about 3km of strike length along the main Mayfield trend.
“The aim of this drilling is to establish a JORC-compliant resource for development options analysis,” the company reported. Polaris has also been exploring its holdings in the iron ore-rich Pilbara. The Weelumurra project, which comprises the Weelumurra and Caliwinga deposits, is in a precinct with a regional potential of 3 to 4 billion tonnes of iron ore across all propsects. Consultant interpretation and helicopter reconnaissance completed at Weelumurra indicated potential for between 250 and 300mt of channel iron
and canga deposits. According to Polaris, assays at Weelumurra indicated grades of up to 64 per cent iron. At Caliwinga – which features channel iron up to 25m thick – assays showed 57.4 per cent iron with a best result of 64 per cent iron.
While Polaris is currently focussed on the development of YIOP stage one, stage two and its Pilbara holdings represent an exciting opportunity for future growth.
By Kate Christou