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First magnetite production at Iron Bridge a “game changer”

Fortescue's Iron Bridge magnetite project.

After 20 years and 20 million work hours, Fortescue Metals reports its first magnetite production at its Iron Bridge mine in WA, which measured an impressive grade of over 68 per cent iron.

Magnetite projects are typically lengthy and complicated – sometimes failing to meet a certain grade – the Australian Financial Review (AFR) reports.

But after project delays and cost blowouts, Iron Bridge delivered, yielding a 68 per cent iron grade over a target of 67 per cent.

“Within a week of starting operation, Iron Bridge hit grade and that was the biggest relief of my career,” Fortescue executive chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest, told AFR.

The wet concentrate has been transported from the mine through 135km slurry pipeline to Port Hedland. There it will be dewatered, transforming it into a high-grade magnetite product ready for shipping.

The mine will produce 22 million tonnes per annum of high-grade magnetite concentrate, suitable for steel making.

Using magnetite in steel making has a lower overall carbon emissions than alternatives.

“Iron Bridge will lead the way for a successful magnetite industry in Western Australia and is a game changer for not only Fortescue, but the wider iron ore industry,” Forrest said.

The Iron Bridge project created over 20,000 jobs during construction, a workforce figure which peaked at 4,000. Another 900 full time jobs will be created when the project begins operations.

“I would like to congratulate every one of the 20,000 people who worked on achieving the most remarkable safety record during the construction of this incredibly complex project,” Forrest said.

Fortescue chief executive officer Fiona Hick said she was proud that the team was able to deliver the project while maintaining strong safety performance.

“The construction of Iron Bridge, Fortescue’s first magnetite operation, was complex particularly while managing the added challenges resulting from COVID-19 and border closures,” she said.

“Our focus is now on achieving safe and efficient ramp up.

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