THE WA Government has unveiled its Anketell Port Master Plan, which details plans for the Pilbara’s next – and possibly last – major deep water port.
Developed as a “working document” to guide port development across the next 30 years, the master plan proposed private sector development of a major, multi-user and multi-commodity deep water port on the West Pilbara coast, 30km east of Karratha.

Premier and State Development minister Colin Barnett said access to port space was an increasingly rare and valuable commodity in the Pilbara, and Anketell would ease pressure on the two public ports at Dampier and Port Hedland, which were already working to capacity.

“Development of Anketell Port will help to unlock the potential of the West Pilbara by aiding further development of the State’s natural resources,” Mr Barnett said.
“This Master Plan is a clear guide for proponents who are seeking additional routes to bring ore to market. “This may well be the last major new port in the Pilbara,” he said.
The plan also provided for the development of an infrastructure corridor that would contain essential services like rail lines and access roads, and an industrial area to support the operations of the port.

The state government stated it would be built and expanded in stages over the coming decades “as demand requires”. At full development, Anketell Port’s capacity would be 350 million tonnes per annum of iron ore – about 20 per cent more than the total shipments throughPort Hedland in the 2012 to 2013 financial year.

There would also be provision for heavy industry exports, general cargo trade and fuel imports. The master plan indicated the importance of developing a conceptual design and management approach for the port that minimised physical or commercial barriers of entry.
It would support the development of new iron ore mines, “including those that are not currently economic due to the lack of port infrastructure and/or are stranded due to the lack of port options”, and encourage participation from “a wide range of port users, both large and small, who are considered important to the further development of the Pilbara region.”

“With a capacity of at least 350 million tonnes per year once fully developed, the Anketell port provides opportunities not only for the expansion of existing operations, but also for emerging companies to gain a valuable foothold in the industry,” the master plan stated.
“The Western Australian Government has undertaken extensive work to progress the project to this point. The site is now project ready, with major environmental and native title approvals in place. “This Master Plan is the next step, and will provide a starting point for negotiations with interested parties.” Development of the proposed port was boosted when Aquila Resources – a company spearheading the development at Anketell Point – threw its support behind a hostile $1.4 billion takeover bid from Chinese steelmaker Baosteel and Australia’s largest rail freight operator Aurizon on the same day the master plan was released.

Aquila recommended shareholders accept the Baosteel offer, priced at $3.40 per share.
Baosteel Resources International chairman Dai Zhihao said Baosteel had tried to support the development of Aquila for more than five years, but believed the company had “reached an impasse.” “Baosteel and Aurizon announced the Offer for Aquila shares with the intention to progress Aquila’s stalled development projects,” Mr Zhihao said.

“This is in stark contrast to remaining a shareholder of Aquila and facing the challenges and uncertainties of volatile commodity markets, risks offinancing large capital expenditure, potentially dilutive capital raisings, and
the challenge of developing genuinely economically feasible greenfield projects. “If the bid is unsuccessful, and based on the current facts known to us at the date of this announcement, Baosteel sees no meaningful prospect for being involved in the development of the WPIOP [West Pilbara iron ore project].”

Aurizon Holdings chief executive and managing director Lance Hockridge said the offer gave Aquila shareholders the opportunity to avoid the inherent funding and development risks associated with Aquila’s greenfield projects. “Baosteel and Aurizon together have the capacity to fund, the resources and the genuine capability to progress Aquila’s greenfield projects with the joint venture partners,” he said.
Aquila is developing the 30mtpa WPIOP as a 50:50 joint venture with American Metals & Coal International, which would require Anketell port access as well as a 282km railway to the port.