Cockatoo Island has a colourful history, having been both a hub of iron ore mining activity for 70 years and, for a short time, a playground for WA’s business and political elite with the high-end Cockatoo Island Resort. With Cockatoo Island Mining receiving approval to acquire the mining leases in 2021 and a group of local businesspeople reviving the resort, Cockatoo Island is again bustling with activity.
Cockatoo Island, is located in Dambimangari country, north of Derby, and adjacent to two marine parks. It is considered an important migration route for humpback whales.
Mining activity has occurred intermittently on the island since 1951 when BHP first developed a substantial iron ore operation. Various companies have operated the mine since, which is renowned for its very rich iron content. In the mid-1980s mining activity was suspended and the island hosted Alan Bond’s high-end Cockatoo Island Resort. With advertisements featuring an infinity pool and pink chalets, it became an exclusive haven for wealthy holiday makers who frequently docked their yachts in the archipelago.
When the Bond empire collapsed in the early 1990s, the Cockatoo Island Resort was reclaimed by the bank and sold, after which it was used intermittently as worker accommodation for staff at the iron ore mine. In 2019 it was purchased by a group of local businessmen who resolved to renovate the resort and reinvigorate tourism on the island.
The Cockatoo Island mine, which has been coveted for its high-grade, low impurity iron ore, hangs off the side of the island and is separated from the ocean by a seawall which allows mining to occur below sea level. In early 2021, Cockatoo Island Mining received Foreign Investment Review Board approval to acquire the mining leases. Cockatoo Island Mining is a private company incorporated in Australia, and its only shareholder is a private individual who is based in Hong Kong.
In 2020, Kimberley Technology Solutions announced it had received major project status from the state government to develop a multi-user supply and support base on Cockatoo Island to service the oil and gas, marine and aviation industries. The $100 million development includes construction of a wharf area with deep water access, an upgraded landing strip, and accommodation for up to 100 people.
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