The Board’s approval of the South Flank project in the central Pilbara, Western Australia was the culmination of a three-year project assessment that involved experts from across our business.
The US$3.06 billion South Flank project was assessed by reference to our Capital Allocation Framework. The decision also took into account environmental, health and safety, water, Indigenous and community considerations.
The project is expected to produce high-quality iron ore for more than 25 years, starting in CY2021. Our view is that population growth and increasing development in emerging economies will continue to drive demand for steel over that period, with infrastructure for renewable energy a key factor in future commodity growth. South Flank’s high-quality ore will be in particular demand as it requires less processing, produces steel of more reliable quality, and produces less pollution.
Throughout the project design and assessment, BHP’s thinking was informed by our commitment to delivering sustainable value to all our stakeholders. As always, safety and productivity were prioritised. The design team used innovative 3D design tools that enable designers to spot potential clashes, bottlenecks or safety issues more readily than with traditional paper-based designs.
The mine design has engineered out over 400 potential causes of significant safety events, meaning a safer workplace for the estimated 2,500 construction and 600 ongoing operational jobs that will be created. Barriers such as requirements for physical strength and extensive manual handling have been eliminated to support the hiring of a diverse workforce.
The mine design also makes the most of new technology, including a conveyor that will generate its own power as it carries ore to be processed. Autonomous drills and trucks will improve both safety and productivity.
Environmental and community considerations were also important inputs into the project design. Dumps and roads were moved to minimise the impact on ghost bats and invertebrate fauna. The project team worked in consultation with the Banjima People, the traditional owners of the land, to identify sensitive environmental and ethnographic and cultural sites. This engagement is ongoing, and the mine design will be reassessed to minimise impact on culturally significant sites.