Atlas Iron has entered into a binding Memorandum of Understanding with QR National to progress the feasibility of an independent railway in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. The proposed Pilbara Independent Rail (PIR) Project would connect iron ore deposits owned by Atlas and other companies in the East and South-East Pilbara to Port Hedland.

The study is expected to be completed by the end of this calendar year, with first haulage earmarked for as early as 2015. The standard-gauge railway would be designed to be expanded progressively in line with shipping allocations at Port Hedland port. The line would initially be connected to stockpiling facilities which would be developed concurrently at Port Hedland.

Under the binding agreement, Atlas and QR National will share the costs of the study and both will contribute resources as required. Any development proposal would be subject to the approvals and investment hurdles of the companies’ respective boards.

“An independent railway offers Atlas a highly attractive means of growing its production to as much as 46 million metric tons per year,” said Atlas Iron Managing Director Ken Brinsden.