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Western Australia Iron Ore

Integrated iron ore mines, rail and port operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia

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Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) is an integrated system of four processing hubs and five mines connected by more than 1,000 kilometres of rail infrastructure and port facilities in the Pilbara region of northern Western Australia.

WAIO’s Pilbara reserve base is relatively concentrated, allowing development to be planned around integrated mining hubs which are connected to the mines and satellite orebodies by conveyors or spur lines. This approach enables the value of installed infrastructure to be maximised by using the same processing plant and rail infrastructure for a number of orebodies.

At each processing hub – Newman, Yandi, Mining Area C and Jimblebar – the ore is crushed, beneficiated (where necessary) and blended to create high-grade hematite lump and fines products. Iron ore products are then transported along the Port Hedland–Newman Rail Line to the Finucane Island and Nelson Point port facilities at Port Hedland.

There are four main WAIO joint ventures (JVs): Mt Newman, Yandi, Mt Goldsworthy and Jimblebar. BHP’s interest in each of the joint ventures is 85 per cent, with Mitsui and ITOCHU owning the remaining 15 per cent. The joint ventures are unincorporated, except Jimblebar.

BHP, Mitsui and ITOCHU have also entered into separate joint venture agreements with some customers that involve the sublease of parts of WAIO’s existing mineral leases at Wheelarra and POSMAC. The Wheelarra JV sublease expired in March 2018 and the Wheelarra JV is now in the process of being wound up. As such, control of the sublease area reverted to the Jimblebar JV in March 2018.

The ore from the Wheelarra and POSMAC JVs is sold to the main joint ventures. BHP is entitled to 85 per cent of this production. All ore is transported by rail on the Mt Newman JV and Mt Goldsworthy JV rail

Our 2018 Full Year Results – From the Team at Mt Whaleback, WA

We only achieve the results we do because of our amazing teams. Here's our Mt Whaleback team in the Pilbara with the highlights from our 2018 full year results.

Key Developments During FY18

WAIO achieved record production in FY2018, supported by record production at Jimblebar and Mining Area C, and improved rail reliability. WAIO has also recorded ongoing productivity improvements, such as the development of a rail-scheduling tool that continually learns and applies new algorithms to optimise rail movements. WAIO has adopted a manufacturing mindset to lower operational costs through improved truck availability and fuel consumption, increased equipment reliability and extended equipment life.

The Jimblebar truck fleet became fully autonomous in November 2017. The autonomous fleet reduces people exposure to hazardous environments, saves time and allows for greater accuracy.

In February 2018, BHP received approval to amend its environmental licence to increase capacity at its Port Hedland operations to 290 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa).

Looking Ahead

On 14 June 2018, the BHP Board approved US$2.9 billion in capital expenditure for the development of the new South Flank project. This is in addition to BHP’s pre-commitment funding of US$184 million, which was approved in June 2017. South Flank will fully replace production from the 80 Mtpa (100 per cent basis) Yandi Mine, with first ore targeted in the CY2021. It will contribute to an increase in WAIO’s 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.

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