The Northern Territory's newest iron ore mine has today loaded its first shipment bound for China.

Sherwin Iron has a project in and for months has been stockpiling its ore at the East Arm Wharf near Darwin.

Today's shipment consists of 70,000 tonnes, and is the first of three shipments that are headed to three different steel mills in China for testing.

The ore being exported to China is classed as a "bulk sample" and Sherwin Iron has not required an environmental impact statement (EIS) to mine it.

The Territory's Minister for Mines and Energy, Willem Westra van Holthe, says this process is "not unusual".

"We have allowed a bulk sample to come out (of this mine), because it's simply that, a sample, it's not full-blown mining and the relative disturbance to the ground is quite small," he said.

"It allows the company to assess the economics of the project by being able to pull some ore out of the ground, send it across to to be smelted and tested to see whether China actually wants this stuff."

It's expected the ore will meet the requirements of the Chinese mills, which will allow Sherwin Iron to start full production next year.

The company expects the mine to have a life of more than 20 years and during that time it aims to export at least 200 million tonnes.

Mr Westra van Holthe says it's a major project for the Northern Territory.

"This project will see the employment of up to 300 people when it's fully operational," he said.

"The Territory Government is fully committed to doing whatever it can to see this project succeed.

"The level of economic activity in the Roper region is encouraging and I look forward to seeing the long-term benefits the mine site brings to the Roper region."

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