The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) has approved up to A$47.5m ($32.5m) in loan facility to Australian exploration and mining company Metro Mining for stage two of the Bauxite Hills expansion project in Far North Queensland.

The mine is located 95km north of Weipa in Western Cape Rock, where the company holds a total tenement package covering approximately 1,900km2.

The funding, which will be provided through a loan of up to nine years, will be used for the construction and mobilisation of a floating terminal at Skardon River, as part of mine expansion project.

Based on a previously completed definitive feasibility study (DFS), the Stage 2 expansion is estimated to cost A$51.4m ($35.2m) to increase production from the current 3.5-million wet metric tonnes a year to 6 million wet metric tonnes a year.

Floating terminal forms major component of Stage 2 of Bauxite Hills expansion project

The floating terminal, which is the main component of Stage 2, will allow the company to load larger vessels.

NAIF acting CEO Amanda Copping said: “This commitment to Metro Mining Limited is further demonstration that NAIF funding is supporting economic and social development in Northern Australia particularly Queensland. Metro has an established track record of providing employment opportunities in the Cape York region.

“We are pleased that this support from NAIF will assist the company in its long-term expansion plans with a project that will generate over $500 million in public benefit and create jobs in the Cape.”

Scheduled for completion by 2021, the project is expected to create a total of 60 new jobs, taking the workforce at the mine to more than 300.

Metro Mining managing director and chief executive officer Simon Finnis said: “We are very pleased to have secured the support of NAIF in providing a long-term loan to provide financing for the Stage 2 Expansion.

“Bauxite Hills will be a significant contributor to the economy of Northern Australia and a large employer from the surrounding communities for many years to come.

“With the Stage 2 DFS complete and financing secured, we are now awaiting completion of the final design of the Floating Terminal in order to be in a position to present to the Board for final approval.”

NAIF’s investment decision and financial assistance for the project expansion is subject to the Minister for Northern Australia’s legislative consideration period and Queensland government’s consideration.