Slurry Pipelines on the Move 

Mon, 13 September 2010


A number of slurry pipeline projects are in planning and under construction in Australia and Papua New Guinea. The Australian Pipeliner takes a look at the exciting activity surrounding slurry pipeline development.


Western Australia





















Asia Iron Holdings, a subsidiary of Mt Gibson Iron, is awaiting financial commitment for the Mt Gibson Ranges to Geraldton Slurry Pipeline, located in Western Australia.

The pipeline is to be approximately 278 km long with a diameter of 500 mm and will have the capacity to hold 10 MMt of dry concentrate.

Asia Iron Holdings has contracted Nacap Australia to construct the pipeline, which is hoped to commence late next year pending commercial agreements.

Aurox Resources is planning to construct a 110 km slurry pipeline from the Balla Balla mine site to Port Hedland, Western Australia.

The proposed pipeline, engineered by Slurry Systems Engineering, will be 457mm in outer diameter and manufactured to API standards for the transport of 10 MMt/a of magnetite concentrate.

The underground pipeline will operate at a cost of $1 per tonne of concentrate, which is cheaper than trucking.

Aurox has said that construction of the pipeline will take approximately five months to complete and is pending further funding. Currently the company is in a process to merge with Atlas Iron. A construction contractor is yet to be appointed.



The Gladstone Nickel Slurry and Water Pipeline project involves the potential construction of a 175 km ore slurry pipeline from a proposed nickel and cobalt laterite mine at Marlborough to a high-pressure acid leach plant in Gladstone. The pipeline will be constructed as part of an expansion of the initially proposed plant.

Route selection for the two pipelines was finalised in mid-2008. Proponent Gladstone Pacific Nickel is to use the upgraded Queensland Government pipeline corridor from Yarwun to its Residue Storage Facility, and will follow a similar route to that used by Rio Tinto for its Yarwun Alumina Refinery.

Environmental impact statement (EIS) approval through the Co-ordinator-General was received in January 2009, followed by Federal Government approval in May 2009. However, construction has been deferred for two years, with work scheduled to start in 2012, as funding of the main project is yet to be finalised. No pipeline construction contractors have been appointed as yet.

EcoCivil recently constructed a 1.2km bypass pipeline for the 304 km Century Zinc Pipeline, which carries ore concentrate slurries from Minerals and Metals Group’s Century Mine, 250km northwest of Mt Isa, to Karumba on the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The bypass was constructed following a failure on the pipeline in October 2009. The bypass pipeline was installed around the damaged section, at the 115 km point of the existing pipeline, and is 300 mm in diameter and made of API 5L X70 steel.


New South Wales

In January 2010, Newcrest Mining proposed a 33 km slurry pipeline looping, to be located at its Cadia East Project, near Orange.

The new pipeline will be designed to handle the full capacity from the Cadia East Project, approximately 17 MMt/a of gold and copper, and is a duplicate of an existing pipeline which will still be available as a partial standby.

The pipeline will connect the low grade ore processing plant at Cadia to the Blayney Dewatering Facility, with a take-off to the Cadia Valley Operations Dewatering Facility.


Northern Territory

Phosphate Australia is investigating three potential routes for a 355 mm diameter steel pipeline to transport up to 3 MMt/a of phosphate slurry from its Highland Plains project, to dewatering and storage facilities, located on the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The company released a scoping study in March 2010 estimating that it could pipe its phosphate slurry between 220 and 266km from the mine to the coast. The study was prepared by Slurry Systems, and was based on previous slurry pipeline projects, and pipe cost quotes based on the supply of DN350 steel API 5L X70 pipe, to be supplied by OneSteel.

Phosphate Australia has indicated that a site at Calvert River was of “particular interest” as it was the only option to be located solely in the Northern Territory. This option would involve a 266 km pipeline with two pump stations along the route, at an estimated cost of $226 million.

The study also looked at a 220 km option located at Tully Inlet, Queensland, which would include the construction of one pump station at a cost of $184million. While it is the cheapest option, the pipeline route has been noted as “rugged in parts” through to the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland.

Another option involved a 224 km pipeline at Burketown, Queensland, that runs to an existing transport site at Ballast Grounds, including one pump station for a cost $192 million – but would traverse approximately 20 km of salt plains and the Lawn Hills National Park.



Exergen is investigating the construction of a 150 km underground coal slurry pipeline that will run from a proposed commercial coal processing plant, to be located in the Latrobe Valley in south-eastern Victoria, to the port of Hastings, located on the Mornington Peninsula.

The company said that it plans to build a 12 MMt/a plant in the Latrobe Valley to demonstrate and commercialise its continuous hydrothermal dewatering technology, which uses gravitational head pressure and a small amount of energy to transform the molecular structure of brown coal, removing up to 80 per cent of its moisture content.

Engineering for the feasibility study was undertaken by Sedgman with support from Thiess.

The company plans to begin construction of the plant in the Latrobe Valley by2015–16.


Papua New Guinea

Construction of the 135 km Ramu Nickel/Cobalt Slurry Pipeline for the Ramu project in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has been completed. The pipeline will not be commissioned until a deep sea tailings placement has been completed later in the year, expected around November 2010.

The 600 mm diameter slurry pipeline runs from a plant at Kurumburkari to a refinery at Basamuk via pumping stations at Usino Junction near Ato.

The pipeline has a design life of more than 20 years and traverses 22 rivers and numerous creeks.

There will be five pressure monitoring stations connected to a fibre optic cable monitoring and control system, and will employ a choking system at the end of the pipe to control the flow. Four buffer storage tanks are used.

The project is managed by China Metallurgical Construction Group Corporation and includes joint venture partners Jinchuan Group, Jilin Jien Nickel Industry Corporation, Jiuquan Iron and Steel Group and Highlands Pacific.

In October 2007, Marengo Mining commenced a definitive feasibility study on the Yanderra Copper-Molybdenum Project.

Phase 1 of the study is to be completed by February 2011, following which Marengo will finalise the details for the project, including the construction of a slurry pipeline to the port of Madang in PNG.

Copper concentrate from the project will be pumped to the port site in the pipeline, to be laid alongside the mine access road and the major highway into the town of Madang. The pipeline is expected to be approximately 109 km in length and approximately 200 mm in diameter. The project will also include a tailings pipeline of approximately 104 km.

Following the completion of Phases 2 and 3 of the feasibility study, and government and regulatory approvals, construction is expected to commence around 2012, with pipeline construction expected in 2013. Marengo has said that construction contractors for the pipeline will be selected in 2012.