Local universities are partnering with CITIC Pacific Mining to explore ways of extending the life of infrastructure at the ground-breaking Sino Iron project, south of Karratha.

For the past six weeks, three PhD students and their mentors from Curtin University’s Corrosion Engineering Centre have examined the types and root causes of corrosion at CITIC’s desalination plant.

CITIC has invested in a state-of-the-art desalination plant, with equivalent capacity to the facility which services the Perth Metropolitan Area.

“Consistent supply of water is critical to our downstream processing operations,” CPM Desalination General Manager Patrick Lee explained.

“Like desal plants across the world, we’re in a constant battle against the corrosive impact of seawater on plant and equipment. 

“These students provide a fresh set of eyes - identifying types of corrosion, causes and materials which might slow the effects.”

The initiative is part of iPREPWA - a new program aimed at boosting collaboration between the local universities and WA industry. It involves interdisciplinary teams of PhD students, from all five WA universities, working on a six-week project with an industry partner during their thesis examination period.

Patrick said, apart from gaining on-the-ground experience within the mining industry, students have benefited from exposure to the workings of a critical component of the fully-integrated Sino Iron project.

“I’ve been impressed by the way they’ve applied themselves to the task, and quickly adapted to life on site.

“Their work has the potential to save millions of dollars in maintenance costs and prolong the life of essential assets. We’re encouraged by their approach, preliminary findings and ongoing work at Curtin’s Corrosion Engineering Centre.

“Sino Iron is at the forefront of a new downstream processing industry for Australia. Our project is big, integrated and complex – with plenty of opportunities for young, enquiring minds.

“In the years to come, we want WA’s best and brightest to consider how they might progress a career with us. This starts with building stronger links with local universities through programs such as iPREP.”