August 7th (The Sydney Morning Herald) – Atlas Iron Ltd has entered into a joint-venture agreement with Fortescue Metals Group Ltd (FMG) for Atlas’s Abydos project in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The joint venture covers a tenement over which Atlas owns the iron ore rights. Atlas also said that it was the first company to seal a port access deal with Fortescue for its new Port Hedland iron ore export terminal. “The primary focus of the joint venture is to define and develop extensions to the FMG Glacial Valley magnetite deposit, (part of the Abydos project)” Atlas said in a statement.

“FMG may earn a 60 per cent joint-venture interest in the iron ore rights by delineating inferred resources of iron ore within the tenement,” Atlas said. It also said FMG may earn a further 15 per cent joint venture interest in the iron ore rights by completing a pre-feasibility study on the mining of iron ore within the tenement.

A further 12.5 per cent joint venture interest may be earned in the iron ore rights by completing a definitive feasibility study on the mining of iron ore within the tenement. Atlas has converted a memorandum of understanding (MOU) into a binding heads of agreement to use Fortescue’s port facilities for the initial period of production from its flagship Pardoo project, about 100km from Port Hedland.

Pardoo commences production in October, with exports to follow in December.

“This is a ground-breaking third-party port access agreement, the first of its kind in Western Australia,” Atlas managing director David Flanagan said. “We now look forward to building on our association with FMG as we commence development of our second iron ore project, 120km south of Port Hedland at Abydos.”

Atlas is expected to negotiate a rail haulage agreement with FMG to transport ore from Abydos to port. It is also likely to use road haulage to get its product from Pardoo to port. Mr Flanagan flew from the Diggers and Dealers Conference in the mining town of Kalgoorlie to Perth to finalise the negotiations. He returned to the popular conference to make a presentation.

He told delegates that Atlas had not yet committed to offtake agreements because it planned to sell about 60 per cent of product on the spot market to capitalise on high prices. “Every other day we receive an offer … with a base case that we would achieve a premium to the benchmark price,” he said.

He said Atlas was spending between $1.2 million and $1.5 million on exploration each week. The only other company that has an MOU with Fortescue is BC Iron Ltd.

June 16th (WA Business News) – West Perth-based Atlas Iron Ltd has completed another hurdle for its Pardoo iron project in the Pilbara, which is targeting first ore exports in October. The company announced it had won approval from the Environmental Protection Authority which deemed that any environmental impact would be confined to the project area.

Of particular concern to the EPA was that the mining area was within the De Grey River water reserve which is classified as a priority one source protection area. “The water reserve contains the current and future domestic water supply borefields for the township of Port Hedland. The proposal has the potential to impact groundwater through dewatering and discharge of excess water,” the EPA said in its bulletin released today.

However the EPA found that the hydrogeological modeling indicated that due to the nature of the orebodies and associated aquifiers in the project area, any impact associated with dewatering would be confined to the immediate area.

“This is the culmination of two years of hard work, a major milestone in our development and an endorsement of our approach to environmental management,” Atlas managing director David Flanagan. “We would like to acknowledge the EPA and all the other Government and non- Government agencies for their assistance to date.”

Atlas is targeting iron ore exports at an initial rate of 1 million tonnes per annum during its first 12 months of operations of the Pardoo Project. Together with additional export tonnages from its Abydos Project, the company is targeting exports of 6 million tonnes by 2010 and 12 million tonnes by 2012.

June 1st (The West) – Buoyed by Atlas Iron’s successful capital raising, fellow iron ore junior Brockman Resources was last night working on an up to $100 million book-build for its billion-tonne Marillana project in the Pilbara.
  
Brockman put its shares in a trading halt yesterday morning, with the stock sitting at $2.70, only 30¢ below its record close three weeks ago.
  
The timing of the capital raising is opportune given that a year ago Brockman was trading as low as 35¢.
  
It is understood Patersons Securities was arranging a book-build of existing shareholders and new investors to raise between $75 million and $100 million.
  
The book-build should be finalised by late next week, with the placement price expected to be at a discount of between 10 and 20 per cent to Brockman’s last trade. Shareholders are likely to have to approve the capital raising.
  
It is unclear whether Brockman’s board, led by former Arthur Andersen Perth managing partner Ross Norgard who owns $47 million worth of scrip, will participate in the capital raising.
  
Atlas raised $100 million at $2 a share — a 10 per cent discount to its prevailing price — through rival broker Hartleys a month ago.
  
The success of the raising proved the market’s appetite for up-andcoming iron ore producers, despite the continued upheaval on global money markets.
  
Participants in the raising have been rewarded handsomely, with Atlas shares closing at $4.08 yesterday. Atlas is more advanced than Brockman and expects to be producing first iron ore from its Pardoo project east of Port Hedland later this year.
  
Brockman is raising the funds to finance a feasibility study for Marillana, which contains 1.1 billion tonnes grading an average 44.2 per cent.
  
Brockman is eyeing first production next year.