Gina Rinehart’s $10 billion iron ore mine has marked the official start of owner/operator mining, targeting first shipment before the scheduled September 2015 deadline.
Commenting on the milestone, Rinehart said Roy Hill is the largest single mainland construction project in Australia.
"This is a project that will employ thousands of Australians for decades and earn much needed export revenue for Australia,” Rinehart said.
The Roy Hill project, located 115km north of Newman, will eventually export 55 million tonnes of high-grade iron ore a year, adding 7 per cent to the amount of ore Australia supplies the world.
In what is thought to be the biggest ever project financing deal worldwide, the project was able to secure a $7.2 billion debt package that helped to fund its development.
Five international export credit agencies and 19 commercial banks contributed to the sum with the project’s owners pouring in the remaining $3 billion.
Roy Hill Holdings is 70 per cent-owned by Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting. Selling off 30 per cent of the project last year, the remainder is now owned by South Korea's Posco, Japan's Marubeni and Taiwan's China Steel Corporation.
The commencement of operations at the site comes at a time of increasing volatility in the price of iron ore which fell to lows of $US80.20 last week.
However, Rinehart has described Roy Hill as a “crucible of opportunity” during a period of global uncertainty.
"As mining investment generally is contracting in Australia, Roy Hill and Hancock Prospecting is against the trend and continues to invest and grow,” Rinehart said.
"Roy Hill’s staff morale is high, and the hardworking team hope to be able to bring the first shipment due September 2015, ahead of time.”
More than 3800 people are working to complete the mine and associated rail and port infrastructure, with the entire project more than 50 per cent complete.
To date more than 11.7 million hours have been worked on the development of the site, with around three quarters of the committed $8.4 billion expenditure of the project going to Australian suppliers.
More than half a million tonnes of high grade iron ore have been stockpiled, five of the 11 rail bridges are constructed, more than 70 kilometres of rail has been laid, and the first mineral processing plant steel modules have been delivered.