The embattled property-to-steel conglomerate Citic Pacific is still working to resolve technical challenges as it seeks to get its iron ore mining project in the Pilbara region in Western Australia into commercial operation, according to the company's chairman, Chang Zhenming.
Chang would not be drawn on whether the first shipment of ore, already more than three years behind the original target, would be delayed again.
"We have been conducting trial production every day. Our priority is to resolve the technical challenges as soon as possible," he said after the firm's annual meeting in Hong Kong yesterday.
"Trial production is a process that takes time, which is typical for a project like ours - the world's largest magnetite iron ore project under construction."
Asked if the first shipment from the project would be loaded by the end of this month as planned, Chang said: "We need a little bit more time."
On April 19, Citic Pacific said it expected to see the first shipment in the second half of this month, which was a month later than it had indicated in March, because of technical reasons.
Citic Pacific's iron ore project is more than three years behind schedule and three times over budget.
The cost of the two mines was originally estimated at US$2.47 billion but the bill had soared to US$9.1 million by the end of last year.
The firm has placed much of the blame on its chief contractor, the state-backed Metallurgical Corp of China, which said in February that the cost of the construction work it was commissioned for had surged to US$4.26 billion, 2.4 times the budget agreed in 2007.
Chang would not comment on Citic Pacific's four court disputes with the Australian tycoon Clive Palmer, involving the payment of mining royalties to Palmer, the purchase of additional mining rights from him and access to a port where iron ore is exported.