The government of Queensland announced on April 23 a short list of five groups approved to submit detailed mine development proposals for the Aurukun bauxite deposits on the western Cape York Peninsula in north Queensland. The groups are Aluminum Corporation of China (Chalco), Glencore International, Rio Tinto Aluminum, Australian Indigenous Resources Pty Ltd. (AIR) and Cape Alumina Consortium.
Chalco, Glencore and Rio Tinto are well-known international mining companies; AIR is a special-purpose vehicle formed to submit a proposal for the Aurukun project. Participating shareholders are APAC Resources Ltd. and Aust-Pac Capital Pty Ltd. APAC is a natural resources investment and commodities company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Aust-Pac Capital is a private investment company that has provided seed capital and advice for many developments in Cape York, ranging from indigenous housing and education initiatives to a proposed underground coking coal mine at Kalpower.
The Cape Alumina Consortium includes Cape Alumina Ltd., the Noble Group and Qube Bulk Pty Ltd. Cape Alumina is a Queensland-based company that controls approximately 1,900 km2 of exploration tenements in western Cape York. Noble Group is a diversified natural resources supply chain manager of agricultural and energy products, metals, minerals and ores. Qube is Australia’s largest dedicated bulk and general stevedoring operation, operating in 28 ports around Australia, and has been involved in building greenfield bulk ports.
The five groups have until mid-September 2013 to submit detailed mining proposals for government evaluation. The government has a goal of finalizing a development plan by year-end.
Queensland Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said the government could explore the option for both a large and small-scale development that may be able to coexist given the size of the Aurukun resource. “Our key objectives are to maximize the benefits and returns from the mine to the native titleholders and the Aurukun community and to maximize the financial returns to Queensland.”
Chalco had an agreement with the previous Queensland state government from 2007 to 2010 to develop the Aurukun bauxite deposits but terminated the agreement when the government refused to allow development of a project that would not include an alumina refinery. Reports indicated that Chalco had spent about A$100 million on feasibility studies for the project.
Queensland now has a new government, which describes the past requirement for an alumina refinery as a “failed strategy.” The current proposals are for bauxite mine development only.