Confidence is growing that Aurukun’s bauxite deposit will one day be mined after Glencore last week struck a significant deal with Mitsubishi Development.
Under the agreement, Mitsubishi will acquire a 30 per cent interest in the project, with the remaining interest retained by Glencore.
Glencore will remain the operator as it assesses the feasibility of its first new mine project in Australia for at least a decade.
Glencore project director Julian Farrugia said the partnership was a sign of market confidence in the project.
“Since our first involvement with the project we have been engaging with a range of potential customers and interested parties to support the development of the Aurukun bauxite resource, as we’ve done for multiple resource projects in Australia over the past 20 years,” he said.
“We were approached by a number of parties interested to participate in the project, and are pleased to have selected Mitsubishi, with whom Glencore has previous experience in joint venture, to jointly progress this opportunity.”
For those thinking that this will guarantee progress the project towards completion, it’s not that simple.
Glencore is still in the process of negotiating agreements with Traditional Owners and has yet to apply for the necessary approvals to proceed with the mine.
The mining company is finalising an Environmental Impact Statement for the project, which will be available for public consultation in mid-2021, as part of the state and federal government approvals process.
“Importantly, our project pathway is based on a foundation of strong and early direct community engagement. Since our first visit to Aurukun in 2013, we have been committed to openly and transparently discussing the benefits and impacts of the project with the community,” Mr Farrugia said.
“The involvement of Traditional Owners and the community is vital to the project’s future success.
“Our vision is to achieve tangible, long-term benefits for the local community and Traditional Owners that align with their aspirations for their community and their country. This includes local employment and new business opportunities, as well as improved access to, and use of, traditional country.”
And even if all that does get the green light, Glencore would still need to approve the likely billion-dollar cheque to fund the capital to create the mine and its infrastructure.
Mitsubishi Development CEO, Sadahiko Haneji said the deal with Glencore was significant because, if approved, it would generate jobs, benefits and supplier revenue for a regional and remote community.
“For more than 50 years, we have been providing investment Australians can count on,” he said.
“We actively seek assets that have the potential to deliver strong social and economic benefits to communities, as well as broader environmental benefits as the world moves to a low-carbon/decarbonised society.
“The Aurukun Bauxite Project delivers on both of these objectives as we seek to capture growing demand for bauxite – the key ingredient in aluminium – a metal playing an important role in reducing carbon emissions given its lightweight properties making it less fuel intensive when used in transportation, as well as its ability to be endlessly recycled.”
Mitsubishi’s head of business strategy Kenji Azuma said the deal would still hinge on receiving mining leases.
“Glencore has done a great job of moving this project forward, and together, I believe we can unlock the huge potential of this deposit to provide jobs, education and training opportunities for the local community,” he said.
“As a Japanese company we have a deep respect for cultural heritage.
“We acknowledge the strong connection the Traditional Owners have with the land and will strive to earn their trust.”
The new mine, which would be about 23km from Aurukun, would operate for more than 20 years, with annual production of 8 million tonnes of bauxite a year.
Glencore said it would employ 400 workers once it starts production.
The construction of the mine would take two years, creating around 250 jobs.
This article appeared in Cape York Weekly, 22 March 2021.