Western Australia State Parliament has passed legislation to allow the sale of Utah Point Bulk Handling Facility in Port Hedland, which is positioned in one of the largest areas for iron ore export. 

Treasurer Mike Nahan stated that the Pilbara Port Assets (Disposal) Bill 2015 delivered the legal framework to transform the Utah Point facility in Port Hedland to the private sector through a long-term lease.

Nahan said: “The passage of this bill enshrines in legislation the key elements necessary for the divestment of Utah Point.

“This is another important milestone in the government's asset sales programme, which is aimed at improving the state's fiscal position and increasing international competitiveness."

He also stated that the total of asset sales completed by the Liberal National Government is $2.2bn to date.

Throughout committee proceedings of the parliamentary process, opinions of key users of this facility such as stakeholders, junior miners were considered, as well as the views of Association of Mining and Exploration Companies.  

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"The passage of this bill enshrines in legislation the key elements necessary for the divestment of Utah Point."

He said: “The state government has responded to key findings and recommendations made by the legislative council's legislation committee by amending the bill to improve access protection for junior miners and agreeing to changes to the facility's access and pricing regime.

“We understand the concerns of the users of the facility and they have been taken into account in drafting an amendment to the bill, which imposes a restriction on the operation of the facility in favour of ensuring a minimum level of available access capacity to junior miners.

“This additional protection is an appropriate balance between protecting access for juniors, while still allowing others to take up capacity if no juniors are able to, but only in those circumstances.”

Changes in the pricing policy comply with recommendations of both the legislation committee and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Under the amended pricing agreement, the charges will be directly negotiated between the future Utah Point lessee and users, with binding arbitration if the parities fail to reach an agreement.

The transaction phase of the proposed sale of Utah Point is expected to start after March 2017 election.

The facility opened in 2010, and includes a berth of 272m length with a harbour depth of 14.5m, a shiploader with a peak load rate of 7,500t per hour, and two stockyard product storage facilities with necessary equipment and supporting infrastructure.