National Resource Review – A gateway to the mining sector’s commodity markets
22 April 2021
Flinders Port Holdings (FPH) is marking its 20th anniversary this year, and in that time the company’s collaboration with the mining and resource sector has been a cornerstone of its growth.
As the owner and operator of seven ports across the state, FPH is the gateway to regional and global markets for commodities ranging from copper to iron ore while also enabling the import of myriad inputs vital to mining and smelting. In the 2021 financial year, FPH is projected to facilitate approximately 11.5 million tonnes of bulk cargo with significant capacity to increase volumes.
The port operator and the sector have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship over the last 20 years. As FPH has expanded its port operations and diversified into logistics, it has worked closely with key mining companies and the State Government to ensure capital expenditure and infrastructure development has been aligned with the needs of the mining sector. This has resulted in strong, long-lasting, strategic relationships with a wide range of miners and smelters including BHP, OZ Minerals, Iluka, AdBri, Tronox and Nyrstar.
The company has proved to be agile, collaborating with miners to repurpose container terminal facilities at the Flinders Adelaide Container Terminal (FACT) to deliver access to deep water berths for the export of bulk commodities. The company has also proven what long-term collaboration with the sector can achieve through the development of Berth 29 at Port Adelaide.
Since its launch in 2012, the ‘minerals precinct’ at Berth 29 has been tailored specifically for the bulk handling of a range of mineral concentrates. Rail and road access were planned to maximise efficiency with the purpose-built rail spur linking the precinct directly with the national rail network. The facility also has space for the development of further sidings to enable larger volume deliveries.
Berth 29 is now widely acknowledged as one of the most efficient bulk handling facilities in the country. Beyond Berth 29, the container terminal at FACT also facilitates the export of significant levels of containerised finished product including copper cathode and lead ingots while enabling the import of critical out-of-gauge equipment for the mining sector.
Speaking to the National Resources Review, Andrew Pellizzari, GM for Group Development at Flinders Port Holdings, says “Berth 29 has proven to be hugely beneficial to commodities exporters looking for a single integrated export facility through South Australia. Bulk products can be moved through the port precinct by rail or road depending on the customer’s requirements. More widely, we continue to grow with the
industry by reinvesting in infrastructure, plant and equipment to deliver faster, more efficient service to our customers at Port Adelaide and around the state”.
Outside of Port Adelaide, the company has also invested heavily in key regional ports. Last year it completed the $14 million rejuvenation of Thevenard jetty in the state’s west, the gateway to market for several major commodity exporters, and home to one of the largest gypsum producers in the southern hemisphere, with other major capital works currently underway in Port Pirie and Klein Point.
But while Port Pirie, Thevenard and the company’s other ports including Klein Point, play a central role in specific mineral imports and exports, Port Adelaide remains the key transit point for most major miners in the state. Indeed, the speed of getting commodities from pit to port, the absence of transit disruption risks, and the nationally competitive costs have made Port Adelaide an increasingly attractive prospect for miners across the South Australian border, as Mr Pellizzari highlights, “it is important to acknowledge that new mining projects take time to reach production and we invest our time working closely with these miners both intra and interstate, in providing cost effective and reliable supply chain solution options. When these miners sit down and look at the supply chain fundamentals: cost, efficiency, reliability and risk mitigation, we can offer a highly competitive proposition, especially for junior miners where margins are very tight”.
The other advantage FPH has is land availability in close proximity to the port. This is especially appealing for mining companies looking at the prospect of significantly increasing volumes through the port. At Port Adelaide there is green field capacity for expansion and further infrastructure development both at Outer Harbor and at the established resources precinct at Inner Harbour. According to Andrew Pellizzari this ability to take a tailored rather than rigid approach, has been a significant reason for their success with the sector.
“As we have proved over the last decade, we are in a position to tailor solutions to our mining customers. Due to our location at Port Adelaide, we are also able to expand capacity to cater for increased export volumes if needed. For miners gauging the viability of ramping up export volumes, we are able to offer them the scope to do that if the decision is made.”
Later this year Flinders Port Holdings will complete its first master plan which will set out the future for the company’s ports and infrastructure over the next 50 years. Crucially, it builds on the group’s Sustainability Plan which includes several provisions focused on aligning Flinders Port Holdings logistics and port operations with the emerging environmental, social and governance standards expected in mineral supply chains, including greater emphasis on carbon emissions reduction.
For Mr Pellizzari the sustainability focus is not only part of the FPH vision, it is also another example of where the company is listening to its customers.
“If you look at the direction of travel for the mining industry, especially in Australia, there is a huge shift towards more sustainable mining and we are part of that process. Downstream customers want to see that the inputs going into finished products have not only been mined sustainably but transported sustainably too. We are gearing our actions in this space so that miners can demonstrate good ESG practice right through to export.”
The mining and resources landscape in South Australia has evolved significantly over the last 20 years but as Flinders Port Holdings prepares to mark two decades in operation, the company remains a critical partner for the sector. Its tailored approach, competitive pricing and proximity to regional mining hubs, and collaborative approach make it well positioned to continue its key role in the mining industry into the future.