On the rails: around Western Australia’s massive mining rail network – by JP Casey (Mining Technology – June 12, 2023)


The Pilbara produced over 800 billion tonnes of iron ore in 2020-21, a massive amount requiring an equally massive rail network. JP Casey investigates.

The Pilbara is Australia’s, and perhaps the world’s, mining heartland, dominating in both national and global production of a number of minerals. The region was the world’s second-largest producer of bauxite and third-largest of gold in the 2020-21 financial year, and these commodities delivered close to $15bn (A$23bn) in value for the Australian economy.

However, iron ore is the jewel in the region’s crown of commodities. Pilbara miners produced over 800 billion tonnes of iron ore in the 2020-21 financial year, with Western Australia accounting for 98% of the country’s total iron ore reserves. These products included over $100bn (A$150bn) worth of iron ore exports, and generated $103.3bn (A$154bn) in sales, up from $42.7bn (A$64bn) in 2016-17.

Massive business, but a sector of this size requires equally sizable infrastructure, both literally and financially. In the case of the Pilbara, a number of vast rail lines, built specifically to transport iron ore from mine to port cross the countryside, all but carrying stacks of cash from one end of Western Australia to another.

The state’s four primary rail lines – owned and operated by mining giants including BHP and Rio Tinto – account for over 3,800km of track. These connect mines in the Pilbara to ports at Dampier and Port Hedland, bringing Pilbara iron ore to the world.

For the rest of this article: https://www.mining-technology.com/features/pilbara-mine-and-rail-network-in-australia/