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The first blast was fired at BHP’s South Flank project today, as the next major step in the development of the US$3.6 billion mine site in the Pilbara.

The blast represents the start of mining development works at South Flank, on the way to a target of first ore in calendar year 2021.

About 8.9 million tonnes of material will now be removed ahead of first concrete pour in early 2019 for the 40Mtpa Primary Crusher 1.

Over the next few months the South Flank teams will be constructing road networks to enable the early mining activity and construction access ahead of the build of Primary Crusher 1.

Located near BHP’s Mining Area C operations, South Flank will replace production from the 80 million tonne per annum (100 per cent basis) Yandi mine, which is reaching the end of its economic life.

The project will create around 2,500 construction jobs and more than 600 ongoing operational roles. About 9,000 people are expected to be engaged in the South Flank work force over the life of the project.

Expanding the existing infrastructure at Mining Area C, the project involves construction of an 80 Mtpa crushing and screening plant, an overland conveyor system, stockyard and train loading facilities, procurement of new mining fleet and substantial mine development and pre-strip work.

South Flank is expected to produce ore for more than 25 years and will contribute to an increase in the BHP Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) average iron grade from 61 per cent to 62 per cent, and the overall proportion of lump from 25 per cent to approximately 35 per cent.

BHP also anticipates that about 85 per cent of the US$3.6 billion project spend will be awarded to companies based in Australia, about 90 per cent of which will go to companies based in Western Australia.

As at the end of July 2018, around A$699 million had been awarded in 131 contracts for South Flank, including for village earthworks and construction, miscellaneous works and access roads. This includes A$176 million for earthworks which has been awarded to Perth-based NRW Holdings and A$287 million for bulk earthworks and concrete to CPB.

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