BHP open Jimblebar iron ore mine, announces autonomous haul truck trial

BHP Billiton has celebrated the opening of its Jimblebar iron ore mine 40 kilometres east of Newman in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The $US3.6 billion project delivered first production in the quarter ending September 2013 and is expected to deliver phase one capacity of 35 million mt per year by the end of the 2015 financial year.

It will increase BHP’s Pilbara supply chain capacity to more than 220mtpa.

A low cost option to expand Jimblebar to 55 mtpa in the longer term would increase this to approximately 260 mtpa to 270 mtpa.

BHP Billiton Iron Ore President, Jimmy Wilson, said extensive planning and research went into designing Jimblebar’s mining operation, with productivity measures and technology central to the design plan.

“Mobile crib rooms and fuelling stations have been positioned closer to the mine pits so our trucks and equipment spend more time moving earth and less time travelling or parked out of action,” he said.

“Our pursuit of productivity gains and operational excellence is delivering significant value at Western Australia Iron Ore. The business is now well positioned to deliver high margin volume growth at a substantially lower cost.”

As part of the mine opening, Wilson also announced BHP will expand its autonomous truck trials at iron ore sites across the Pilbara.

In mid-2014 the trial will include a second circuit at Jimblebar and an increase to the fleet, with six new trucks operating in the pits at nearby operation, Wheelarra.

In a statement the company cited a number of reasons including safety and productivity as part of its push to implement autonomous technology.

“The use of autonomous haul trucks has the potential to introduce safety benefits by removing people from potentially hazardous environments; increasing the predictability and productivity of haulage operations, providing new employment and training opportunities for our people and reducing the labour intensity of future mining operations.”

It said the purpose of the trial was to test the roles, processes and technology required to safely operate autonomous trucks in a production environment with a view to further expand its use.

WA Premier Colin Barnett attended the opening of the Jimblebar mine and said the operation, which peaked at a workforce of almost 2500, would provide a 1000 operational jobs.

Jimblebar was originally slated to open in November 2013 but a issues with a sealing agent on the Newman airport runway forced it to be postponed.

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