As one of the pompous twats (only two of us admit that we are)
A bit premature to concede that purely on the basis of a story in the Advertiser designed to drum up interest from investors. It hasn't, to my knowledge, appeared in any other media outlets so far - maybe Rupert Murdoch has money in the project and wants the price pushed up before cashing out?
I note that the mine will be connected to the port by a brand new direct heavy-duty line. All of our talk about upgrading the roundabout route via the existing lines and the necessary extra construction has gone out of the window. Of course such a line should be standard gauge, even though upgraded narrow gauge can carry very heavy loads, and the opportunity to do this to the light weight Eyre Peninsula system will be lost, I think forever.
If the existing lines were to be used they would require a full rebuild and not just minor upgrade-in-place works. Were a full rebuild of the current lines was to be undertaken, then the choice of gauge would be worth considering afresh, instead of putting down a new narrow gauge line just because that's what was there before.
In my opinion, the best overall solution (if the mine actually happens) would be to use the current corridors but rebuilt with 25TAL standard gauge where needed for iron exports and normal mainline standards elsewhere - including to Port Lincoln. The chance to future-proof it for a potential national network connection (via the National Highway corridor from the Whyalla line to Kimba) shouldn't be passed up - and that is the one thing which a heavier narrow gauge line cannot do.
The downside of this approach is the amount of joined-up thinking required - it would require Iron Road, GWA, federal and state governments to all work together, even ARTC would need to be involved regarding safeguarding of a future link from the Whyalla line via the National Highway corridor towards Kimba.
It begs the question however – will there have to be another such port much further northwards, i.e. Point Lowly, if the large northern deposits are to be exported through South Australia? The proposed new port at Point Hardy is a long way from Whyalla if standard gauge connection is envisaged, though it has the advantage that its location is in protected waters and is not a huge detour from the existing shipping routes.
Both locations are in the protected waters of Spencer Gulf. A major point in favour of Cape Hardy over Point Lowly is that it is in a wider part of Spencer Gulf - capesize vessels require a lot of room to manoeuvre and to do this at Point Lowly would probably necessitate the expensive establishment and operation of a Traffic Separation Scheme. That alone could make it worth accepting the train journeys being a couple of hours longer, and not any more circuitous than any other major rail corridor on the national network to the south or east of Crystal Brook.