A significant percentage of the Pilbara’s economy is based on liquefied natural gas and oil. The North West Shelf Project (NWS), operated by Woodside for instance supplies oil and gas to international and Australian markets and is the largest producer of domestic gas for Western Australia. The NWS project is a joint venture between six major international companies and accounts for more than one third of Australia’s oil and gas production. The NWS project has been operating for more than 30 years and is a leading exporter of LNG to Asia and also supplies liquefied petroleum gas, condensate and crude oil for the international market. Woodside has also proposed a new Burrup Hub development that could see more gas processed than the entire volume extracted from the North West shelf since start up in 1984. It would also provide thousands of new jobs for workers in the Pilbara region.
Most of Australia’s iron ore is mined in the Pilbara with key players like BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group leading the charge as the mining giants of the region. Rio Tinto alone has an integrated network of 16 mines in the Pilbara region: Tom Price, Paraburdoo, Channar Eastern Range, Marandoo, Brockman 2, Brockman 4, Nammuldi, Western Turner Syncline, Silvergrass, West Angelas, Hope Downs 1, Hope Downs 4, Yandicoogina, Robe Valley (Mesa A) and Robe Valley (Mesa J). Rio Tinto has a 1,700 kilometre rail network connecting the mines and related infrastructure to four independent port terminals making them one of the world’s leading exporters of iron ore. BHP has more than 1,000 kilometres of rail infrastructure connecting five mines, four processing hubs and two port facilities. Meanwhile, Fortescue metals group holds the largest tenement portfolio in the Pilbara region, making them a key player for further exploration in the region. In the 2018-19 financial year iron ore mining accounted for 54% of the total value of the state’s resource production with a value of $78.2 billion. The total value of the minerals and petroleum industry in Western Australia was $145 billion in 2018-19, which was a 26% increase on the previous financial year. The iron ore business in the Pilbara continues to grow as mining companies continue to expand their projects and further exploration in the region.
Western Australia’s two newest lithium mines are hard at work in the State’s far-north Pilbara region. Pilbara Minerals’ lithium-tantalum project at Pilgangoora, 120km south of Port Hedland, was officially opened by Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston, bringing the number of operating lithium mines in WA to seven. The Pilgangoora project is one of the largest lithium ore deposits in the world. Pilbara Minerals is also embarking on an expansion of their mining and processing capacity with the development of a lithium hydroxide conversion facility and an exploration target to extend the mine’s life as the global demand for lithium ion batteries is set to grow at an unprecedented rate over the coming decades with a forecast growth rate of 28% per annum between 2018 and 2028. This jump in demand will be largely driven by the automotive sector. Western Australia is currently the largest single producer of lithium worldwide, accounting for 42% of lithium production in 2017 with much of it coming out of the Pilbara region.
Western Australia has a significant proportion of global battery minerals, including lithium (9%), cobalt (17%), nickel (25%), alumina (20%), manganese (14%), vanadium (9.5%), and non-battery minerals used in the manufacturing of electric vehicles and energy storage systems, such as rare earths.
Western Australia is the largest single producer of lithium worldwide, accounting for 42% of lithium production in 2017.
Three of the world’s four largest producers of lithium are developing downstream processing projects to produce lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate, and nickel sulphate in Western Australia: Tianqi (China), Albermarle (US) and SQM (Chile).
The State Government manages 12 Strategic Industrial Areas (SIAs) and leases land and utilities for strategic industry proponents.
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