‘Not my first rodeo’, Ellison bullish at MinRes

Ellison

Mineral Resources' Iron Valley site. Image: Mineral Resources

Mineral Resources (MinRes) managing director Chris Ellison has given a staunch presentation at an annual general meeting (AGM), outlining how MinRes would muscle its way towards low-cost, high-volume operations.

Despite iron ore prices – MinRes’ most profitable commodity – taking a tumble in the back half of 2021 from above $US200 per tonne ($274 per tonne) down to current levels below $100, Ellison said he saw much positivity in the next two to five years.

Ellison said the falling iron ore prices have also been compounded by labour shortage-related headaches, however he was confident the company would manage.

“The last couple of years have been fairly tough, we’ve been in different conditions that we’ve never operated in before,” he said.

“We’re getting the hang of it now, it’s all around managing our people and it’s certainly going to get a lot tougher going forward than it has over the last 12 months.”

Ellison has worked in senior mining roles since the early 1980s and emphasised this in his speech.

In his 40 years shaping the Western Australian mining industry, he has seen his fair share of market crashes, trade wars, commodity cycles and corporate restructures.

“We’ve got a shift in the commodity prices, we’ve had iron ore come off about $130 a tonne,” Ellison said.

“The discounts on lower grade ore are getting wider, down around 42 per cent. Shipping costs are about 2.5 to three times what they were a year ago.

“So, the challenge is out there but it’s not my first rodeo, it’s not my second.

“I think we’ll work through this, we’ll grow the business, and we’ll keep developing with all the commodities we have in the mining services sector.”

To become the low-cost, high-volume miner Ellison forecast, he said the Ashburton hub would be pivotal for MinRes.

This will involve the start of operations at the Bungaroo iron ore mine, 170 kilometres east of the Port of Ashburton.

Ellison said this asset – acquired from BCI Minerals for about $A14 million in March 2020 – was shovel ready and on track to achieve an Australian-first.

“This is going to be the first iron ore mine in Australia that’s been designed and built dust-free,” Ellison said.

“So, the iron ore won’t see the light of day from when it comes out of the crushing plant onto our haulage fleet, it’ll stay under cover until it gets 22 miles offshore on the transhippers and it enters the big cape carriers.

“We wanted to do that because I think it’s where we need to be today. It’s much easier to design that sort of a facility now rather than retrofit it down the track.”

The Port of Ashburton, as previously reported, will welcome iron ore alongside its already established exports of LNG and natural gas, with MinRes spearheading the Port’s development to accommodate the change.

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