The Miralga Creek iron ore project is an open-pit, direct-shipping iron ore (DSO) project being developed as an extension of Atlas Iron’s Abydos mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia that ceased production in 2018.

Also called the Farrell Well project, the Miralga Creek iron ore project targets to produce approximately eight million tonnes (Mt) of iron ore from five open pits in the Sandtrax, Miralga West, and the Miralga East mining areas over an estimated operational life of four to five years.

Atlas Iron received all statutory approvals to develop the project by May 2021 that included the mining proposal approval by Western Australia’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) as well as the environmental approval by the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in September 2020.

The company has awarded key contracts and is planning to start works on the project in the third quarter of 2021 with a target to commence production in early 2022.

Location, geology, and mineralisation

The Miralga Creek iron ore project is located near the completed Abydos mine in the Pilbara region, approximately 100km south-east of Port Hedland and 50km northwest of Marble Bar.

The project comprises the Sandtrax, Miralga West, and Miralga East iron ore deposits on the northern edge of the Panorama Greenstone Belt within the East Pilbara Terrane.

All the three deposits are hosted within the Cleaverville Formation of the Archaean-age Gorge Creek Group and are bounded to the north by the Lalla Rookh sandstone. The Cleaverville iron formation is characterised as an east-west striking ridge dipping steeply to the north.

The Miralga Creek iron ore bodies consist of banded iron information (BIF), chert, shale, and sandstones segregated by thick layers of quartzites and meta-felsic sandstones.

Extending to a depth of up to 100m beneath the surface, the iron mineralisation is found to be predominantly goethitic with minor occurrences of haematite.

Ore reserves at Miralga Creek

The Miralga Creek iron ore project is estimated to hold approximately 9.7Mt of resources grading at 57.12% iron (Fe).

Mining and ore processing

The Miralga Creek iron ore operations will comprise five open pits including a small pit at Sandtrax, a large pit at Miralga West, and three pits at Miralga East.

The conventional open-pit mining method involving drill, blast, load, and haul operations will be deployed for ore extraction.

The run-of-the-mine (ROM) ore will be crushed and screened to produce iron ore lumps and fines.

The processing facility will be equipped with a grizzly feeder, a primary jaw crusher, and a secondary cone crusher, along with a triple-deck vibrating screen. The other key components in the facility will include two radial stackers, two cross belt samplers, weightometers, and a metal detection system.

The final products from the project site will be trucked to the Utah Point bulk handling facility in Port Hedland for overseas export.

Infrastructure at Miralga Creek iron ore mine

The other infrastructure facilities for the project will include laydown and fuel storage areas, haulage and access roads, ROM stockyard, waste rock dumps, diesel generators, workshops, and a centralised control room.

The existing bore field and accommodation camp from the nearby Abydos project area will be utilised.

Contractors involved

Primero, a subsidiary of NRW Holdings, was awarded a four-year crushing services contract for the Miralga Creek iron ore project in August 2021.

RSC Mining and Mineral Exploration provided mineral resource estimates for the project, while Mine Earth was contracted for assessing the geochemical and physical characteristics of the mine wastes.

Pells Sullivan Meynink (PSM) Mining Services was engaged in the geotechnical investigation as part of the environmental assessment, while Gavin Jackson Cultural Resource Management, an independent consultancy based in Perth, performed archaeological and ethnographic surveys in the mine area in 2014.