What is the South Flank Mine?
The $4.5bn South Flank mine is a BHP-led iron ore project in the Pilbara, Western Australia. It is anticipated to run for 25 years and upgrade BHP's average iron ore grade from 61 per cent up to 62 per cent, while notably increasing the proportion of lump iron ore produced from 25 per cent up to 35 per cent.
BHP is currently in the process of removing about 8.9 million tonnes of material in the build up to the first concrete pour, in early 2019, for a 40 million-tonne-a-year crusher.
The high-grade deposit will enable BHP to sustain production as their Yandi Mine is exhausted over the next 5 to 10 years. The project is the most significant project in the Pilbara, where it will notably replace the production of their soon-to-be-decommissioned Yandi Mine.
In a similar fashion to Rio Tinto and other major mining players, BHP plans to implement autonomous technology across the mine's operations, specifically utilising fully automated drills and haul trucks.
What will the project produce?
In terms of production, the mine is expected to produce over 80 million tonnes of iron ore a year, amounting to almost one third of BHP's current production across the Pilbara. In terms of jobs, South Flank mine is anticipated to produce around 2500 construction jobs and more than 600 ongoing operational roles. The first ore from South Flank is targeted for 2021.
How has South Flank been funded?
BHP maintain a 85 per cent stake in the project with ITOCHU and Mitsui sharing the remaining 15 per cent. The project is estimated to cost around $4.5 billion AUD amongst owners.
What are the benefits of South Flank?
The project's ability to increase BHP's grades and lump ratio is a huge benefit to the company and Australian exporters, as major Chinese consumers continue to pay premiums for higher grade and lump iron ore.