Work is now under way at BHP’s new $4.8 billion South Flank iron ore mine in the Pilbara, with the turning of the first sod on site this morning.
BHP president operations Mike Henry and WA Iron Ore asset president Edgar Basto, along with WA Premier Mark McGowan and joint venture partners Mitsui and ITOCHU, were on hand for the ceremony at what will become the miner’s biggest producing iron ore mine.
BHP has promised to adopt a strong local procurement and jobs focus and says 85 per cent of South Flank’s construction budget will be spent in Australia, and 90 per cent of that in WA.
The project is expected to create about 2500 jobs during construction and 600 ongoing roles during operations, though many of those will be filled by existing staff.
The South Flank project, 100km north-west of Newman and part of BHP’s Mining Area C hub, involves clearing 16,257ha of land for an open-cut mine, associated infrastructure, an overland conveyor, accommodation villages and a rail spur.
South Flank will replace the 80 million tonnes the company mines at Yandi each year. But crucially for the mining giant, it replaces a 58 per cent iron product with a 62-63 per cent ore, boosting the average grade of ore mined across its Pilbara operations by one percentage point to 62 per cent.
Mr McGowan talked up the project’s work opportunities.
“This project is a positive injection into Western Australia in terms of improving business confidence and benefiting the State’s economy,” he said.
“BHP’s decision, with its joint venture partners, to go ahead with the South Flank project is testimony that Western Australia is a secure and attractive place to invest.”
First ore is targeted for 2021, with the project expected to produce for more than 25 years.
NRW Holdings last week won a $176 million earthworks contract on the project and said more than 350 workers would be employed at the peak of the contract, which is expected to run for 15 months from September.