Hope Downs iron ore (HDIO), a subsidiary of HPPL and part of the Hancock Group, secured a State Agreement for the Hope Downs temporary tenements in December 1992, (nine months after the passing of Hancock Prospecting founder, Lang Hancock). Based on that more secure title, Hancock was able to progress exploration and evaluation work, then finished a pre-feasibility study and commenced a Bankable Feasibility Study under the executive chairmanship of Gina Rinehart. In 1998, after a worldwide search, HDIO secured Iscor of South Africa as a partner to help fund the completion of the Hope Downs Bankable Feasibility Study, given that HPPL then had inadequate money to timely finalise an expensive bankable feasibility study.
Iscor later “unbundled” and the partner became Kumba, a smaller and less financially strong company, which was later taken over by Anglo. Anglo had committed to different development priorities during its approval for takeover process. The Hope Downs project was delayed by various events, including inter alia, negotiations to share infrastructure with BHP Billiton iron ore (BHPBIO), settlement of the Porteous litigation (litigation that involved financial claims for Hope Downs, which needed resolution prior to finance being achievable), the hostile takeover of Kumba by Anglo, and Anglo’s commitment to the South African Government that it would focus its iron ore investments in South Africa.
This caused a problem for the Hope Downs project, including its title continuing, as the state agreement included that the Hope Downs project must submit a timely financeable development proposal or be in breach of the state agreement and subject to default and loss.
After a successful arbitration, and government imposed difficulties with accessing Port Hedland (the then selected port for Hope Downs), on 1 July 2005 Kumba /Anglo was replaced by Rio Tinto Iron Ore when the company announced an agreement to enter into the Hope Downs Joint Venture (HDJV), a 50 / 50 joint venture between Hope Downs Iron Ore (HDIO) and Rio Tinto iron ore. The involvement of another partner involved a further selection process and much work, including a major rewrite of the draft development proposal, against the difficult time pressure imposed under the State agreement, should a financeable development proposal not be submitted on or by June 30th.
First production from the A$1.3 billion Hope Downs first Mine was achieved in November 2007 with first railing of ore over the new “Lang Hancock Railway” (named in honour of Lang Hancock) to Dampier achieved prior to Christmas 2007.
Following the success of this first mine, further investment enabled the commencement one year later of its second major mine, Hope South, which increased production capacity to approximately 30 Million Tonnes Per Annum (Mtpa). Hope Downs North and Hope Downs South are both primarily Marra Mamba deposits and are distinct deposits that form part of Hope 1.
Following the achievements at both Hope 1 North and South, Hope Downs 4 (which had had a successful pre-feasibility study undertaken by Hancock prior to Rio Tinto Iron Ore’s involvement) was subsequently developed and commenced production in 2013. Hope 4 is a Brockman hosted iron ore deposit located approximately 30km north of Newman, with a reserve of 162Mt as at 2016, and currently provides production tonnage of approximately 15Mtpa.
Today, Hope Downs comprises three successful major open pit mines (Hope 1 North, Hope 1 South and Hope 4) producing high-grade lump and fines products.
A fourth mine, Baby Hope became active in October of 2018
The project has a workforce across a range of cultures and operates with an excellent record in the areas of health and safety. Maintaining these high standards and reliability for its customers are key areas of management focus.
Hope Downs currently has total production capacity of approximately 47Mtpa and represents one of Australia’s largest and most successful iron ore projects in the lower cost quartile.
The risks that needed to be overcome – the efforts, focus, hard work, persistence and investment by HPPL and its subsidiary over many years – plus the additional risks, endeavours and expense to achieve the myriad of thousands of government approvals, permits and licences, plus the many years of defending and paying for Porteous litigation so financing for Hope Downs was possible – built a foundation for such successful projects and should enable the Hancock Prospecting Group to continue to contribute to the growth of the Pilbara region, West Australia and the nation for decades to come.
Hope Downs was named in honour of Hope Hancock (née Nicholas).