Qantas has inked a three-year agreement to provide FIFO services to Gina Rinehart’s $9.5 billion Roy Hill iron ore mine.
The contract will see Qantas Airways’ Network Aviation division fly to the site three times a week by mid August using its Fokker F100s.
The value of the deal has not been revealed however The Australian reported the airline expects to expand its services as work at the project ramps up, with a predicted 3600 employers need at the site.
Qantas Domestic chief executive Lyell Strambi said the Roy Hill contract was the latest win for the company and a milestone in the airline's target to develop regional services across Australia.
"The agreement demonstrates Qantas's strength in the fly-in, fly-out business and affirms our strategy of investing and expanding our charter operations through Network Aviation," he said.
Roy Hill's sealed 2.5km Ginbata air strip was certified by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority at the end of May and terminal facilities have also been built.
Roy Hill general manager external affairs Darryl Hockey said Qantas was chosen because of its quality safety record and reliability.
Hockey said the first flights would transport workers involved in preparation works such as earthworks for the processing plant.
"Then we move into what we call foundation works but we don't actually start construction proper until we've got our debt finance in place," he said.
Hockey said the Qantas deal would ensure the right people were available "at the right place at the right time".
"Once production begins in 2015, safe and dependable air services will be critical to the ongoing efficiency and productivity of the Roy Hill operations," he said.
The $10 billion mine could go ahead as early as October, a sign the project is close to securing the $7 billion needed for necessary debt funding
"We believe our funding is a matter of when, not if," Roy Hill chief executive Barry Fitzgerald said.
Hancock has already awarded mining contractor NRW Holdings a $67 million contract to complete earthworks and piping at the mine, while Decmil has been awarded $71 million worth of contracts.