Thunderbird on the up with NAIF funding


Sheffield Resources has received a $160 million loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) for its Thunderbird mineral sands project in Western Australia.

Thunderbird is owned by an equal joint venture between Sheffield and YGH Australia Investment (Yansteel), known as Kimberley Mineral Sands (KMS).

Together, the companies are developing one of the largest and highest-grade mineral sands discoveries of the last 30 years.

Sheffield executive chair Bruce Griffin said the NAIF funding allowed for construction to remain on schedule.

“Sheffield is extremely pleased by the level of support shown by NAIF and the federal government for the Thunderbird mineral sands project,” Griffin said.

“The NAIF commitment will enable KMS to finalise project funding requirements for Thunderbird and progress construction activities, with the aim of delivering first production in early 2024.”

Thunderbird will require a total $300–$320 million to be secured for development and KMS is now seeking to complete project financing to fully fund stage one construction via a third-party commercial loan facility.

Stage one will support a workforce of approximately 350 people on a drive-in, drive-out basis, with about 350 steady state jobs created across the mine’s 36-year lifespan.

This figure does not include the support afforded to local businesses and contracting opportunities, one of which was recently awarded to GR Engineering for $179.5 million.

This engineering, procurement and construction contract will see GR work on a processing plant at Thunderbird, with limited work beginning in March in anticipation of a final investment decision.

The decision is expected from KMS in mid-2022, with the project to be delivered over an 18-month span.

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