Cloud Break mine

Cloudbreak Mine
Cloudbreak Mine - Pilbara WA-2008.jpg
Cloudbreak Mine in distance - 2008
Cloudbreak Mine is located in Australia
Cloudbreak Mine
Location in

22.323978°S 119.396942°E / 22.32398°S 119.39694°E / -22.32398; 119.39694Coordinates: 22.323978°S 119.396942°E / 22.32398°S 119.39694°E / -22.32398; 119.39694

Location Pilbara
State Western Australia
Country Australia
Company Fortescue Metals
Website Fortescue website
Products Iron ore
Production 28 million tonnes/annum
Opened 2008

The Cloudbreak mine is an iron ore mine located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, 89 kilometres west-south-west of Nullagine, in the Chichester Range.[1]

The mine is fully owned and operated by the Fortescue Metals Group, FMG, and is one of three iron ore mines the company operates in the Pilbara, the other two being Christmas Creek mine (located 50 kilometres east of Cloudbreak.[2]) and the Solomon Project respectively.

Fortescue is the third-largest iron ore mining company in the Pilbara, behind Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.[3]



Iron ore mines in the Pilbara region.

Fortescue acquired the Cloudbreak and Christmas Creek tenements during 2003. The company begun constructing port facilities at Port Hedland in February 2006, followed by a A$3.2 billion capital raising in August 2006 to finance its projects.[4] Construction on the mine itself began in October 2006.[5]

Fortescue began mining at Cloudbreak in October 2007.[4] Iron ore production at the mine began in 2008 and, in its first full year of operation, the mine produced 28 million tonnes of iron ore.[2]

The ore from the mine is processed on site before being loaded onto rail. The product is then transported to the coast at Port Hedland through the Fortescue railway, where it is loaded onto ships. Construction on the 280 kilometre long line from Cloudbreak to the Herb Elliott Port at Port Hedland was begun in November 2006. The line was scheduled to be fully operational within 18 month. A cyclone in March 2007 killed two workers at the project and lead to delays. The first train from the mine to the port travelled on 5 April 2008.[6]

The mines workforce is on a Fly-in fly-out roster.[7]

The mines annual production rate, as of 2010, stands at 39 million tonnes of iron ore. Plans to increase this to 55 million tonnes through a US$220 million upgrade of the Cloudbreak plant had to be abandoned in October 2009 because of funding difficulties through its Chinese investors. Instead, Fortescue decided to develop its Christmas Creek deposit, at a cost of US$360 million, by building a mine and process plant there and linking it to its existing rail network. Christmas Creek is scheduled to produce 16 million tonnes of iron ore in its first year of operation. Fortescue plans to reach an annual production of 95 million tonnes of iron ore by 2012, downgraded from an earlier target of 120 million.[8]

Mining at Cloudbreak was temporarily suspended on 24 December 2010 after a fatality as a sign of respect and to ensure the safety of the workers.[9]

Environmental approval

The approval of the A$2 billion project through the then-Minister for the Environment, Ian Campbell, was criticised because of a number of endangered species in the area of the future mine, among them the incredibly rare Night Parrot.[10][11] Continuation of the mining project was endangered and, in order to gain EPA approval, the mine had to implement a management plan to ensure that mining activities would not have a negative effect on the species survival in the area. The occurrence of the Night Parrot in the future mining area was discovered during a 2005 survey, at Minga Well on 12 April 2005, commissioned by FMG, which was carried out by two contract biologist who sighted a small group of the birds. Unconfirmed sightings of the bird had been made previously in a near-by area in 2004.[12][13]


  1. ^ MINEDEX website: Cloudbreak search result accessed: 6 November 2010
  2. ^ a b Mining Fortescue website, accessed: 9 November 2010
  3. ^ Western Australian Mineral and Petroleum Statistic Digest 2009 Department of Mines and Petroleum website, accessed: 8 November 2010
  4. ^ a b History Fortescue website, accessed: 9 November 2010
  5. ^ Work begins on Cloudbreak mine ABC News, published: 24 October 2006, accessed: 9 November 2010
  6. ^ Fortescue opens the world's heaviest haul railway Railway Gazette International, published: 14 July 2008, accessed: 6 November 2010
  7. ^ Sucked in The Australian, published: 4 April 2008, accessed: 9 November 2010
  8. ^ Fortescue Metals Group's China funding flops The Australian, published: 13 October 2010, accessed: 9 November 2010
  9. ^ Iron ore operation suspended after death The Herald Sun, published: 24 December 2010, accessed: 25 December 2010
  10. ^ Campbell stands by Cloud Break mine approval ABC News, published: 24 July 2006, accessed: 9 November 2010
  11. ^ Bad news for one night parrot, good for species The Australian, published; 16 February 2007, accessed: 9 November 2010
  12. ^ Management Plan EPA website, published: April 2005, accessed: 9 November 2010
  13. ^ Pezoporus occidentalis — Night Parrot Department for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website, accessed: 9 November 2010

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