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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

My first day on a FIFO mine site

Everyone starts their FIFO mining journey on day one. Hear stories from our South Flank team about what they felt on their first day.

Key developments during FY20

Construction of the South Flank project started in July 2018 and by the end of FY2020 was overall 76 per cent complete.

WAIO achieved record production in FY2020 of 248 million tonnes (Mt) (compared to 238 Mt in FY2019), with higher volumes reflecting record production at Jimblebar and Yandi. Weather impacts from Tropical Cyclone Blake and Tropical Cyclone Damien were offset by strong performance across the supply chain, with significant improvements in productivity and reliability following a series of targeted maintenance programs over the past four years.

We continue to be a low-cost iron ore producer with cost reductions and volume creep enabled through the BHP Operating System, debottlenecking initiatives across the supply chain, and technology and improvements in our maintenance strategies.

WAIO continues to focus on operating safely, implementing a series of preventative measures designed to minimise the spread of COVID-19. To meet border controls introduced by the Western Australian Government, more than 900 employees and contractors in business critical roles have temporarily relocated to Western Australia, including the majority of people in specialist roles who are based interstate, such as train drivers and train load out operators. These employees remain in Western Australia.

In October 2019, BHP submitted an application for a government approval related to Aboriginal heritage sites at our South Flank project under construction in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The approval was granted in May 2020 following extensive consultation with the Traditional Owners, the Banjima people. Nonetheless, consistent with our approach to cultural heritage, BHP confirmed in June 2020 that it would not disturb the sites covered by the approval without further consultation with the Traditional Owners. BHP supports the Western Australian Government’s current process to reform and update its cultural heritage legislation. BHP has made submissions to the Government in support of this reform.

Looking ahead

South Flank remains on track to deliver first ore in CY2021 and is expected to produce 80 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), replacing volumes from Yandi, as Yandi reaches its end of mine life.

WAIO continues to focus on productivity and debottlenecking, while transitioning critical supply chain projects to deliver strong returns and operational stability. Underpinning this success will be the embedment of our transformation programs, labour productivity and operational efficiencies across our business.

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