ENGAGE Marine has won a contract to operate transhipment operations for Kimberley Metals Group at Wyndham in far northwest Australia.

KMG is reactivating iron ore production, although it is not clear whether this is from the mothballed Ridges mine or the previously undeveloped Matsu mine. Both are located about 165 kilometres south of Wyndham, with processed ore trucked to KMG barge-loading facilities at the Cambridge Gulf-leased-and-operated port.

The Ridges Iron Ore Project began shipments in 2011 but has been subject to fluctuations in demand and price for its low-grade product. After stalling in 2015 when some 6.2 million tonnes had been shipped, new operators later collapsed (March 2020) before further exploration and the introduction of a new beneficiation plant to process lower grades of ore saw the Ridges mine went back into production in mid-2020. Indus Mining Pty Ltd signed a mining agreement with tenement owner KMG, and then operated the mine as part of a joint venture with Habrok Mining and Ridges Iron Ore Pty Ltd. But the mine was again mothballed in September 2021, after a further 1.7mt had been shipped, when iron ore prices plummeted once more.

Shipping operations were previously handled by Transhipment Services Australia, which provided tugs, barges, pilotage, logistics and project management.

Engage began advertising for staff for the new contract last week and CEO Mark Malone said the company had been “pleasantly surprised” by the number and quality of people applying for positions in what is a very remote part of Australia.

Engage will deploy two tugs and two barges for the work, with one tug, the recently-procured Engage Outlaw currently undergoing maintenance in Singapore while the second will be Engage’s Whyalla spare tug. Both will be replaced in due course by dedicated tugs. The barges, previously used at Wyndham and laid-up in Dampier, are being acquired by KMG and will be overhauled prior to entering service, Mr Malone said. A start-up date is unknown at this stage but likely to be a couple of months away.

* Engage Marine has appointed Mike Dixon to its leadership team as Chief Finance and Strategy Officer with effect from 25 March. Mr Dixon joins from Clarke Energy, where he has led the development of their corporate capabilities over the last 10 years.