IKAMBA, Metro Mining’s new offshore floating terminal, on Sunday began its first assignment at Skardon River, loading bauxite on the capesize bulker Jewel (175,874 DWT) eight nautical miles offshore.

The 9163 GT OFT, which arrived at Darwin at the end of January in tow of deepsea tug Ning Hai Tuo 6002 after a $6 million refit in Shekou, China, (DCN 5 February) was later taken to Weipa by the same tug to prepare it for Metro work.

Ikamba departed Weipa last Thursday [25 April] behind tug TSA Neptune and arrived at Skardon River the following day. The OFT is the most significant part of Metro’s expansion project to 7 million wet metric tonne (WMT) capacity, tripling Metro’s export capacity but also providing additional resilience and upside to the Bauxite Hills Mine operation, the company says.

It enables the faster loading of vessels, loading of larger vessels up to Newcastlemax size (220,000 DWT) and due to its size, can operate safely in more difficult weather conditions. It will work in tandem with the single floating crane barge (FCB), TSA Skardon, to optimise ship loading in 2024.

Ikamba is 132 x 28 metres, with deadweight of 5,000 tonnes. The cargo handling system comprises two heavy duty electric cranes of 34 WMT (wet metric tonnes) and 30 metres outreach, from E-Crane, and a conveyor system from MacGregor and a ship loading boom able to cover up to three holds of vessels up to Newcastlemax size. The system nameplate capacity is peak loading 3,000 tph with expected operational throughput of up to 2,000 WMT per hour. TSA Skardon has nameplate capacity of 1,000 WMT per hour.

Simon Wensley, CEO & MD of Metro Mining said: “It has been over a year since Ikamba was loading bauxite off the West African Coast. After travelling halfway around the world and undergoing a refurbishment in China, it is exciting to see it in operation at Skardon River. My thanks to our truly professional team that has contributed to this epic journey. I wish the new Metro crew, fair winds and seas and above all, safe operations.”

Resumption of mining after the wet season shutdown occurred on 25 March and ship-loading the next day.
Maintenance work on mobile equipment, fixed plant and marine vessels was completed during the layover and two new large 90-metre barges arrived at site to take the full complement to six.

Production and shipment guidance for 2024 is set at 6.3-6.8 million WMT, fully underpinned by firm off-take contracts. The bauxite traded bauxite market remains robust with negotiations for contracts with open pricing in Q2 following market trends and up by approximately 20% versus Q4 2023, Metro said.