Atlas and QR National to rival BHP rail

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Atlas Iron and QR National are working together on plans for a new rail line in the Pilbara to rival existing developments by BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group.

A joint venture between Atlas and QR will be conducting a feasibility study for the $3.5 billion line.

The study is expected to be finished by the end of this year, with first haulage completed by 2015.

Atlas currently trucks ore to Port Hedland but needs a rail line to boost production and develop other sites in the southeast Pilbara.

In a statement today the company said a rail line could lead to it tripling iron ore production.

"Atlas intends to use rail haulage as part of its strategy to grow production from 15Mtpa to as much as 46Mtpa, enabling the company to take advantage of its highly valuable Port Hedland port capacity," it said.

"The potential development of an independent Pilbara rail network could represent a paradigm shift for the progressive development of the Pilbara, breaking open long-standing barriers to new entrants to the iron ore industry."

Infrastructure is currently a valuable commodity in the Pilbara, with BHP, Rio, and FMG closely guarding their rail lines and port capacity.

Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting also has plans to build a rail line to Port Hedland from the Roy Hill development.

Atlas and QR’s joint venture follows indications last month QR was looking to expand operations to the Pilbara.

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