Northline scores difficult mine haul contract off Darwin

By: Jason Whittaker


National freight company Northline has won a strategic contract to haul mineral sands on Melville Island, off the North Australian

National freight company Northline has won a strategic contract to haul mineral sands on Melville Island, off the North Australian coast.

Under the two-year agreement, Northline will haul 30,000 tonnes a year of mineral sands from the Andranangoo Creek mine, operated by Matilda Minerals, along a 130km unsealed road to the Garden Point wharf.

Epitomising the challenges inherent in servicing this remote location, the island’s wharf was washed away in the wet season, so Northline’s freight will need to be barged to ships until the wharf is rebuilt.

Northline has created six new jobs to serve the 24X7 route, which can only run during the NT’s dry season, from May to December. A team of four drivers will use two 600-horsepower Mack Titan prime movers, equipped with carting tippers and configured as a double road train, for the 260km round trip.

Northline is an Australian freight company that specialises in servicing remote locations throughout the country. The privately-owned business, which employs more than 350 people, provides a combination of express freight, general freight, warehousing and mine site services throughout Australia.

Northline Chief Operating Officer Phillip Taylor says the NRW contract is a significant win that aligns the company’s remote location skills with the mining industry.

"It extends Northline’s experience in servicing large miming projects in northern Australia and gives us a real opportunity to demonstrate our ability to deliver," he says.

"For the past 25 years, Northline has specialised in providing long-haul general freight services to some of the most remote locations in Australia for customers including many mining companies. The significance of this win is that it strategically establishes us as a player in the mining sector beyond general freight and warehousing services. It adds a new dimension to our business."

Melville Island is Australia’s second largest island after Tasmania. Located 60km from Darwin, the island, with neighbouring Bathurst Island, is home to the Tiwi people, who have produced some of the top players in Australian football, including Maurice and Dean Rioli, Michael Long and David Kantilla.

West Australian miner Matilda Minerals owns and operates the Andranangoo Creek Mineral Sands Mine on Melville Island, which contains high-grade zircon-rich mineral sands deposits. Zircon is widely used in the ceramics and refractories industries because it resists both high temperatures and chemical attack.

Perth-based mining contractor NRW, which has the mining contract at the mine for Matilda Minerals, says it chose Northline to provide ore haulage services because running the route is so difficult.

Communication depends on two-way radios and satellite telephones while the road between the mine and the Garden Point wharf is little more than a bush track. Sections of the unsealed road are maintained by three separate organisations while wild buffalo, horses and rogue crocodiles represent potential traffic hazards on the route.

Northline’s head of major projects Guy Adams says hauling freight on Melville Island presents a major challenge to bulk haulage operators.

"Because it’s so remote, it’s difficult for operators to work over there unless they have good support and ready access to spare parts and tyres," he says.

"NRW needed somebody with local knowledge and local resources to provide the best operational outcome.

"Because Northline has a large support base in Darwin, we are able to ensure these difficulties don’t get in the way of running a round-the-clock operation."

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