NAIF approves $95m for Sheffield’s Thunderbird project in WA

Thunderbird project. Image: Sheffield Resources

Sheffield Resources’ Thunderbird mineral sands project in the Kimberley region of Western Australia has taken a leap forward with Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) loan approvals, totalling $95 million.

The NAIF debt facilities, while still subject to state approval, will provide a large boost to Sheffield’s project. The financing will allow for the construction of onsite LNG (liquefied natural gas) power generation, storage and accomodation facilities, road upgrades, as well as funds for shipping facilities from the Port of Derby.

The federal approval means that Thunderbird will no longer need to satisfy the terms of a $US25 million ($35 million) contingent instrument facility as part of a $US200 million debt finance package with Taurus Mining.

The Thunderbird project is expected to start production in 2020 and aims to employ 280 people in full time jobs, with 40 per cent Aboriginal representation within the first eight years. The overall mine life is set at 42 years.

Commenting, Sheffield managing director Bruce McFadzean said the company was extremely pleased with the funding support.

“Whilst the NAIF facilities would not reduce total funding requirements, the proposed structure provides a pathway for Sheffield to own the asset infrastructure and provides for lower operating costs when compared to the Thunderbird BFS,” he said.

“NAIF’s approval of a concessional loan on the terms and tenor defined in the term sheets is a significant milestone for Thunderbird and will underpin many hundreds of jobs in the Kimberley region over several decades.”

The NAIF development follows on from news in August that the company would be able to secure its mining lease for the project after winning a national native title tribunal (NNTT) ruling against traditional owners group Mount Jowlaenga Polygon 2, who believed Sheffield Resources hadn’t acted in good faith regarding the time period for negotiations.