A KEY component of bauxite producer Metro Mining’s expansion plans has arrived in northern Australia.

The offshore floating transfer barge Ikamba will help enable Metro to expand export operations at Skardon River on Cape York to seven million tonnes per annum later this year. Metro has also bought a $3.18 million Singaporean tug, to be named Mandang, to handle Ikamba. Together, mandang ikamba means “strength of the crocodile”.

Ikamba was built in 2011 as Magdragon 1 for a Singapore subsidiary of China’s CITIC Pacific and deployed at Cape Preston, Western Australia. It then moved to West Africa as ALM Tinka before being purchased in September last year by a joint venture between Metro Mining and Louis Drefus Armateurs.

It was then towed from Kamsar in Guinea to Shekou in Shenzhen over a 10-week period, to undergo six to eight weeks of docking refurbishments at a cost of about $6.21 million. LDA managed the tow and dry-docking. It departed Shenzhen 6 January in tow of Chinese deepsea tug Ning Hai Tuo 6002 and arrived off Darwin 31 January. The tow was then handed over to Svitzer to be berthed at Darwin on 2 February for regulatory clearance, before moving on to Weipa.

Metro Mining CEO and MD Simon Wensley said the acquisitions built on the company’s asset base and capabilities to implement the expansion and also “align with Metro’s long-term strategic objectives to support our growth in the marine industry over the coming years”.

In last month’s quarterly report, covering October-December 2023, Metro said it had achieved its guided 2023 shipment of 4.61 million wet metric tonnes, despite Tropical Cyclone Jasper causing significant disruption to site operations during December, with the suspension of transhipping activities for 10 days.

Upon resumption, ongoing adverse weather limited shipping operations until season end on 4 January 2024. The reduction of loading capacity resulted in the cancellation of two vessels and the short-loading of another
four vessels.

Separately, a new offtake contract with Shandong Lubei Haisheng Biotechnology was signed during the quarter for up to 900,000 WMT in 2024 with prices negotiated quarterly, taking total 2024 offtake contracts to 6.8 million WMT.

Ikamba is expected to begin operations at the end of March.