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The West Australian government will support QR National and Atlas Iron's bid for a common rail line in the Pilbara, but says it won't put any money towards it.
WA Premier Colin Barnett told reporters in Perth on Thursday his government "in principle" supported any rail network to link mining projects in the state's northwest, but said they would have to be self-funded.
"It's a project that's been talked about for along time," Mr Barnett said.
"The state government would be, in principle, in support of this to be able to have a common user rail system that services different companies, different mines.
"(But) we wouldn't fund it - it's a private project."
The premier said rail operator QR National had talked to him "several times" about the proposal, as it would need a state agreement to go ahead.
QR National and Atlas Iron said in a statement on Thursday they were looking at building a new joint-venture rail line linking the region's mines to the export hub of Port Hedland.
A joint feasibility study is being conducted, and the project could be completed by 2015.
The companies said they had been working "informally" on the proposal since last year.
Any development agreement would likely involve Atlas being a foundation customer of the railway.
But the railway would be developed on the basis of other miners connecting and accessing it through staged development, QR National said.
"The potential development of an independent Pilbara rail network could represent a paradigm shift for the progressive development of the Pilbara, breaking open long-standing barriers to new entrants to the iron ore industry," Atlas Iron managing director Ken Brinsden said in the statement.
Atlas said rail haulage would form part of its strategy to grow production from 15 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) to as much as 46 mtpa.
At 1525 AEST, QR National shares were up five cents at $3.68 and Atlas Iron shares had gained three cents to $2.88.
This article first appeared on www.businessspectator.com.au
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