The Nathan River iron ore project is an open-pit iron ore mine being restarted in the Roper Gulf region of Northern Territory, Australia.

Erstwhile known as the Roper Bar iron ore mine, the project was originally developed by Western Desert Resources. Although the mine commenced production in the second half of 2013, it was placed in care and maintenance in April 2015 as the company went into liquidation.

Northern River Resources, a subsidiary of British Marine Group (Britmar), acquired the mine from Western Desert Resources in 2017, and secured approval to reopen the mine, ship existing stockpiled material and process low-grade ore in February 2018.

Northern River Resources revised mine plan and reserves estimate for the project and secured authorisation from the Northern Territory (NT) government for recommencing the mining activities in May 2020. The estimated investment for recommissioning the mine is approximately £13m (A$25m).

Scheduled to commence operations in the third quarter of 2020, the Nathan River iron ore project is expected to produce up to 1.8 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of iron ore including approximately 1Mtpa of high-grade ore in stage one in the first five years of operation. The production capacity can be further expanded to 5Mtpa in stage two over the next 10 years of initial mine life.

Location, geology, and mineralisation 

The Nathan River iron ore property is situated approximately 55km southeast of Ngukurr and 140km away from Roper Bar, along the Nathan River Road in Northern Territory of Australia. The project area comprises four exploration licenses covering approximately 1900km2.

The Nathan River iron ore property is located within the McArthur Basin, in north-eastern Northern Territory, that comprises thick marine and non-marine sedimentary rocks belonging to the late Paleoproterozoic to the early Mesoproterozoic age.

The haematitic ironstones present in the deposit were enriched locally with the inclusion of microcrystalline specular hematite. 

Nathan River iron ore reserves and resources 

The proven and probable ore reserves for the Nathan River iron ore project are estimated to be 5Mt grading 60% Fe, while the measured and indicated resources are estimated to be 466Mt grading 40% Fe. 

Mining and ore processing  

The open-pit mining method using the conventional truck and shovel equipment will be implemented at the Nathan River iron ore project. 

The extracted ore will be crushed and screened on-site. The project doesn’t involve any chemical processing or treatment at the site. The direct shipping ore (DSO) and the direct steel making (DSM) material from the screening facility of the mine will be trucked via a haul road to the Bing Bong Port for shipping to overseas customers.

Contractors involved 

Thiess was awarded a three-year mining contract by Western Desert Resources for the Roper Bar iron ore mine in January 2014. The value of the contract was £82m ($135m), and the scope of the contract included the removal of overburden and maintenance of plant and equipment.

The groundwater assessment for the project area was conducted by SKM in 2010.