Even though the announcement was expected in a few days, BHP (ASX, LON, NYSE: BHP) reported on Tuesday the delivery of the first production at its South Flank iron ore project in Western Australia.
South Flank is an 80 Mtpa sustaining mine that, together with the existing Mining Area C, will form the largest operating iron ore hub in the world – producing 145 million tonnes of iron ore each year. This hub is known as Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) and is an integrated system of four processing facilities and five mines connected by more than 1,000 kilometres of rail infrastructure and port facilities in the Pilbara region.
“South Flank is Australia’s largest new iron ore mine in over 50 years and is on time and on budget. South Flank’s high-quality ore will increase WAIO’s average iron ore grade from 61 to 62%, and the overall proportion of lump from 25 to 30-33%,” BHP’s president of minerals Australia, Edgar Basto, said in a media statement.
“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.”
South Flank is said to be BHP’s preferred option to replace the 80 million tonne-a-year Yandi mine, which is reaching the end of its mine life.
According to Basto, the $3.6 million project has created over 9,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and will provide more than 600 operational roles throughout its life with a workforce that includes 40% female and 15% Indigenous operational staff.
The executive also said that South Flank has a capital intensity of $45/t – approximately half of BHP’s last major iron ore project, Jimblebar.