On 20 May 2021, BHP mined its first ore at its US$3.6 billion South Flank mine in the central Pilbara, Western Australia. South Flank is an 80 Mtpa sustaining mine, and will be the most technically advanced high quality iron ore mine in Western Australia. Together with the existing Mining Area C, it will form the largest operating iron ore hub in the world – producing 145 million tonnes of iron ore each year.
BHP President Minerals Australia, Edgar Basto, said: “South Flank is Australia’s largest new iron ore mine in over 50 years and has been delivered safely on time and on budget. South Flank’s high quality ore will increase WAIO’s average iron ore grade from 61 to 62 per cent, and the overall proportion of lump from 25 to 30-33 per cent.
“The project has created more than 9000 direct and indirect jobs during construction, and will provide more than 600 operational roles through its life.
“South Flank’s ore will supply global steel markets for the next 25 years, helping to build electricity, transport and urban infrastructure across the globe. And its high quality ore will have an important role in helping BHP’s customers lower their greenhouse gas emissions.
“South Flank is on Banjima country, and this milestone would not have been possible without their support and collaboration over many years. We are proud of our longstanding partnership and strong working relationship with the Banjima people, and we thank them for their vital contribution to this success.
“First ore from South Flank is the result of the hard work and ingenuity of thousands of people and organisations spanning state and federal governments, our suppliers, customers, and partners in WA and around the world.”
The South Flank project has expanded the existing infrastructure at Mining Area C, and involved construction of an 80 Mtpa crushing and screening plant, an overland conveyor system, stockyard and train loading facilities, procurement of a new mining fleet and substantial mine development and pre-strip work.
South Flank’s workforce is diverse and highly skilled, with 40 per cent female and 15 per cent Indigenous operational staff.
More than A$4.6 billion of works have been awarded for South Flank with 78 per cent awarded to Australian businesses, including 41 per cent to Western Australian businesses, and 37 per cent committed in the Pilbara region.
South Flank has a competitive capital intensity of US$45/t – approximately half of BHP’s last major iron ore project, Jimblebar.