Flinders Ports is working on a solution to reopen the Port of Thevenard, which was recently closed due to safety concerns.
However it could remain shut down for up to three months.
The company said there was fault in the older concrete jetty part of the structure which supported a section of Viterra’s ship loading conveyor belt.
Flinders Ports’ chief executive officer Vincent Tremaine was hopeful work would begin soon.
“We are still looking at engineering solutions, both short term and long term, and we are holding suitable equipment in Thevenard in preparation for work.”
Mr Tremaine met with Ceduna mayor Allan Suter, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan, Member for Flinders Peter Treloar and Regional Development Australia Whyalla and Eyre Peninsula chief executive officer Dion Dorward in Adelaide on Tuesday.
“Flinders Ports are giving highest priority to getting the port working again as soon as possible,” Mr Suter said.
“This is an early days time-frame but the worst estimate at the moment is a three month closure.
“Engineers are working to fix the issue and looking at a long-term fix and it has been a great response from Flinders Ports.”
Mr Treloar said he was pleased to see Flinders Ports working towards a short-term solution.
“The meeting went well and my understanding is a crane and barge are at Thevenard already,” he said.
“The problem is the concrete legs supporting the conveyor have deteriorated and Flinders Ports knew they would have to do work on it, but they had deteriorated quicker than anticipated.”
Mr Tremaine said the port was subject to a major check every four years and a visual check every two years, with a recent visual check prompting a closer inspection and the subsequent closure of the port.
“Between the last check there appears to have been rapid deterioration in some aspects and we suspect it was related to the storms last year,” he said.
“We did a visual check in the last few months that made us think there should be further action.”
The port’s closure is set to have an impact on the region, particularly on regular port users Viterra, Iluka Resources, Cheetham Salt and Gypsum Resources Australia.
Mr Suter said there was concern throughout the region.
“It’s a huge blow, depending on how long it needs to remain closed but here is horrible potential impact for employment and a lot of people are very concerned,” he said.
Mr Suter said gypsum and mineral sands would potentially be the industries most affected by the closure and its effect would reach communities relying on the port such as Ceduna and Thevenard, as well as Penong.
The port ships grain, mineral sands, salt and gypsum, which in 2016 totalled more than three million tonnes in exports.
Mr Treloar said in parliament last week he was “flabbergasted that it has come to this”.
He also pointed to the impact the closure would have on about 200 local jobs.
A government spokesperson also expressed concern about the closure.
“The state government is very concerned about the impact the suspension is having on users and the local community,” the spokesperson said.
“Ensuring a safe port re-opens as quickly as possible is a priority for the state government.”
Iluka Resources said it was closely monitoring the situation but had to wait until the length of closure was known before it could make any decisions.
“Iluka ships HMC (heavy mineral concentrate) from the Jacinth-Ambrosia mine to its mineral separation plants in Narngulu, Western Australia and Hamilton, Victoria through the port,” a company statement said.
It recently announced mining operations at its Jacinth-Ambrosia site would restart and while this plan will not be affected by the port closure, it will have to use another port.
“Iluka is currently investigating alternative avenues of transport for the Jacinth-Ambrosia HMC, through one of the other ports in the region.”
Viterra said the safety of its workers, customers and the community was its highest priority but it was aware of the importance of the port to local growers, industry and the community.
“We are liaising closely with Flinders Ports as it seeks to identify solutions to the engineering issues and reopen the jetty so that we can resume ship loading operations,” a statement said.
Viterra said it had moved upcoming grain vessels to alternate ports and was working closely with local employees to manage the impact on their roles.