Just before the holiday break, Hancock Prospecting and Roy Hill Holdings celebrated the inaugural shipment from Port Hedland of low phosphorous iron ore from the Roy Hill mine on the MV Anangel Explorer bound for POSCO’s steel mills in South Korea.

“The Roy Hill mega project is the culmination of hard work from the dedicated small executive and technical teams at Hancock and more recently by the entire Roy Hill team,” said Gina Rinehart, chairman of Hancock and Roy Hill. “Given that the mega Roy Hill project was a largely greenfield project that carried with it significant risks and considerable cost, it is remarkable that a relatively small company such as Hancock Prospecting has been able to take on and complete a project of this sheer size and complexity.”

The Roy Hill project has recorded many achievements already, Rinehart explained, and with the first shipment it will also hold one of the fastest construction startups of any major greenfield resource project in Australia. “The first shipment occurred ahead of what the partners schedule had planned in the detailed bankable feasibility study,” Rinehart said.

Responding to concerns about the megaproject flooding an over-supplied iron ore market, Tad Watroba, executive director of Hancock, said, “It is unreasonable that the media and industry analysts are continually overstating the impact the Roy Hill project will have on the iron ore price and ignore that prices dropped last year, pre-Roy Hill even shipping. Their assessments don’t take into account that more than 50% of Roy Hill’s output will be taken by the minority investment partners who are outside of China. With more than 90% of Roy Hill’s production secured under long-term contracts, very little ore will actually enter the spot iron ore market.”

With the departure of the first shipment, Roy Hill and its owners will now focus on a rapid ramp-up to the project’s nameplate capacity of 55 million metric tons per year (mt/y) of annual exports. The Roy Hill mine is an owner-operator, conventional open-pit, drill and blast, truck and excavator bulk mining operation that has an initial mine life of 17 years, with a likely extension beyond that of 12 years.

Over the 17-year life of the project, 4.9 billion mt of material will be moved. This equates to an average yearly mining rate of 272 million mt/y (dry) to produce approximately 68 million mt/y (wet) of Run of Mine (ROM) ore feed for the processing plant. This makes Roy Hill one of the largest mining operations in the Pilbara.

The mine has an average strip ratio of just under 4:1 of waste (and low grade mineralization) to ore. A quasi strip mining approach is used where the bulk of the overburden and waste is dumped back into the previously mined out pit voids. This process helps minimize haulage distances for waste rock, as well as the footprint of mining activities.

Waste dumps are progressively reclaimed over the life of the mine, to ensure that mined areas are rehabilitated to their natural state as quickly as possible. Multiple pits are in production at any one time, with each pit being broad and relatively shallow in nature, with the deepest pit prescribed in the life of mine plan being less than 110 m in height.

ROM pads and crusher stations are located in close proximity to each pit with the crushed ore then conveyed to the processing plant. Three crushing stations are in operation at any one time, which provides operational flexibility. Large ROM stockpiles ensure suitable material is available for the processing plant at all times. A detailed dewatering strategy and water management plan has been developed. This ensures dry mining can occur and the necessary water is available for the processing plant.