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MINING, processing, rail and shipping combined to achieve shipments of 82.7mt in the first half of financial year 2019, Fortescue Metals Group says.

This compared with 84.5m tonnes in the first half of financial year 2018.

The company of businessman Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest is a major exporter of iron ore from the Pilbara and in recent years has even purchased its own very large ore carrier ships.

“Following record shipments in the last quarter of FY18, iron ore inventories were rebuilt at mines and port, and new mining areas were prepared during the September quarter ahead of the introduction of West Pilbara Fines,” FMG stated.

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The half year was marked by the first cargo of FMG’s 60.1% iron West Pilbara Fines iron content product was shipped from Port Hedland to China just prior to Christmas.

This product is a blend of higher iron, low alumina ore.

“The introduction of West Pilbara Fines demonstrates the flexibility of the company’s wholly owned, integrated mining operations and infrastructure and the agility of its processing and blending strategy,” FMG stated. Fortescue expects to produce 8m to 10m tonnes of West Pilbara Fines in the 2019 financial year, ramping up to 40m tonnes a year when the Eliwana mine is operational.

One industry source, who requested anonymity, said there was less demand for FMG’s lower grade iron ore.

“FMG is producing between 52-55%Fe and this has been less attractive to customers and hence why the FMG price has been significantly discounted compared with Rio and BHP,” the source said.

“FMG’s introduction of higher grade product West Pilbara Fines (60% Fe) requires higher levels of overburden to be removed. This will mean less iron ore per unit of production.”

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