Fortescue Metals Group has heralded a maiden resource estimate of 625Mt at its Western Hub project as a step towards its ambition to see a new port developed in the West Pilbara, Western Australia.

Announcing its second resource upgrade in a month, the miner said the combined resource of its Western Hub and Solomon projects ‘determine the necessity of the second port in Fortescue’s two-port, three-hub strategy’.

“The resource estimate cements the company’s determination to proceed with its planned Pilbara port at Anketell Point,” it said.

Fortescue has already been tapped as a foundation customer for a new deepwater port at Anketell, about 25km north of Karratha.

Development of the port is being spearheaded by Aquila Resources and joint venture partner AMCI, who plan to have it up and running by mid-2014.

Aquila needs start-up capacity of 30Mt/y for its West Pilbara project and Fortescue has suggested it would like the port’s initial capacity to be as high as 115Mt/y.

It has also suggested it would like to play a significant role in developing the port.

Fortescue’s total resource in the Pilbara stands at more than 10bnt.

In February it reported a 1bnt iron ore discovery at Nyidinghu, 35km south of Cloudbreak, which could be developed as a new mine.

The 625Mt figure – at 58.8% iron – is based on drilling results from four targets. Another 10 are earmarked for a drilling programme due to start in May.

It expects iron ore prices to remain high until at least 2012 before new supply enters the market from 2013 to 2015.