QR National (ASX:QRN) and Atlas Iron (ASX:AGO) are considering building a new railway linking iron ore mines in Western Australia’s Pilbara region to Port Hedland.
The two companies will conduct a joint feasibility study, with aims to complete the project by 2015.
QR National spokesman Ken Lewsey said Atlas and QR National had been working informally on the proposal since 2011.
“The work done to date demonstrates this proposal has merit. It’s now time to put it through the commercial and operational rigours of a joint study,” Lewsey said.
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“QR National believes the Pilbara offers one of our company’s most outstanding growth opportunities where we can leverage existing capability in heavy-haul rail,” the company said in a statement.
Atlas Iron managing director Ken Brinsden said he was looking forward to examine the economic and technical aspects of the project in order to increase its shipped production above the current 15 million tonnes per annum.
“We believe an independent railway offers Atlas a highly attractive means of growing its production to as much as 46 million tonnes per annum,” Brinsden said.
QR National is the world’s largest rail transporter of coal from mine to port for export markets.
It already services the majority of Australia’s coal producers at more than 50 mine sites in Queensland and New South Wales.