BHP Billiton Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) Asset President, Edgar Basto, believes that while the growth of low-cost seaborne iron ore supply is expected to outpace incremental demand, the company is well-positioned to continue to grow value and returns.
“Our drive for increased performance focuses on operational discipline and the involvement of front line personnel, and is delivering ongoing improvements in our business,” Basto said at the Global Iron Ore and Steel Forecast Conference this week.
WAIO achieved record production of 136 million tonnes in the December 2016 half year. The completion of the rail renewal and maintenance program in the last quarter of the 2017 financial year, which is running six months ahead of schedule, coupled with the ramp-up of additional capacity at the Jimblebar mining hub and ongoing productivity improvements, are expected to deliver an increase in WAIO system capacity to 290 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) in the 2019 financial year.
BHP Billiton’s new operating model is also supporting improved performance, with additional opportunities identified to improve rail cycle times, truck availability and fuel consumption, as well as to increase equipment reliability and extend equipment life, thereby lowering operating costs further.
Basto also outlined the sustaining investment options currently being considered.
“Our Yandi mine, located in the central Pilbara, is currently operating at 80 Mtpa but will be depleted over the next five to 10 years,” Baston said.
“We are looking at options to replace this production. South Flank is the preferred long-term solution, subject to board approval being obtained. The investment case for using this high-grade deposit for replacement tonnes is strong, given BHP Billiton’s ability to utilise existing infrastructure at the Mining Area C operation where possible.”