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Truckie shortage in WA costs mining giant $120 million

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Mineral Resources (MinRes) has felt the effect of Western Australia’s Covid-19 border closures during the March quarter as a shortage of haulage drivers meant tonnes of iron ore were left untouched.

The company shipped 4.1 million wet metric tonnes of iron ore in the March quarter, 51 higher than the previous corresponding period, reports Australian Mining.

However, the past six months have seen about 16 per cent (1.6 million wet metric tonnes) of its product miss the boat.

MinRes stated driver shortages are to blame due to hard border closures, and it’s not clear when these haulage issues will be resolved.

The company has revised its shipment guidance for the 2021 financial year, reducing it to 17.4 million and 18 million wet metric tonnes, respectively.

MinRes received an average price of $US144.8 a dry metric tonnes during the quarter. Most iron ore sent from WA ports contains moisture content of 6 to 8 per cent, suggesting the lost tonnes were worth about $120m to the company.

Hard border controls enforced by the Labor government of Premier Mark McGowan have meant that even minor coronavirus outbreaks in other states have been met with swift border closures, catching mining companies by surprise as concerns recede about broader community spread of the deadly disease.

MinRes is more reliant on the availability of drivers than its larger peers, as the company trucks most of its Pilbara ore to Port Hedland because it does not control its own railway. Its iron ore operations in the Yilgarn region include moving ore from scattered pits to central processing plants before they are put on rail to the port.

The Wonmunna iron ore mine saw first production in late March as the company looks towards the June quarter for a full ramp up to the site’s approved run rate.

Wonmunna is expected to become a five million tonne per annum operation, with the potential to more than double that in the future.

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