Chinese bid to revive Oakajee port

China Australia Journalist Exchange fellow Shane Wright writes for The West Australian

Published 25/11/2013, illustration supplied to The West Australian

One of the Mid West’s biggest investors has warned that billions of dollars worth of iron ore developments across the region could be “mission impossible” unless key infrastructure projects are built.

This includes the shelved $6 billion Oakajee port project.

China group Sinosteel, which has billions of dollars worth of untapped iron ore in the region, will meet with other miners in Sydney this week to discuss the fate of proposed developments being held hostage to the absence of rail and port facilities.

It is looming as a make-or-break meeting that could determine the long-term future of Oakajee and the local mining sector.

Sinosteel’s mineral resources deputy director, Pan WenLiang, told _The West Australian _that his company’s plans for development and the thousands of jobs they would support were under threat.

“We have to deal with infrastructure . . . otherwise it’s a mission impossible,” he said.

The Oakajee project, approved in 2009 in a move Premier Colin Barnett forecast at the time would result in iron ore being shipped from the port in 2013-14, was officially put on hold this year.

The State and Federal governments had committed $700 million to the project, headed by Japan’s Mitsubishi.

But cost blowouts, early delays and companies with differing plans and financial positions have put the port at risk.

Sinosteel put on hold its planned $2 billion Weld Range project in 2011 in part because it could not get rail access to a port that was yet to be built.

Sinosteel board secretary Li Kejie said the port issue was holding back the company’s plans for expansion across the Mid West.

Up for discussion at the Sydney meeting will be the disparate ownership of tenements and proposed infrastructure across the entire region.

In a sign of the company’s thinking, Mr Li said if Sinosteel was the sole proprietor of the rail and port project it could develop “as we wish”.

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