BHP’s South Flank mine to deploy automated technology

BHP in the Pilbara. Image: BHP.

BHP announced on Friday that it will invest $US2.9 billion ($3.9 billion) to develop the South Flank iron ore project in the Pilbara, Western Australia.

The project is set to become the company’s first mega open-cut mine that fully embeds the new technologies, deploying a fleet of autonomous drills from the get-go, according to a report by Afr.

The mine will also be equipped with 40 autonomous trucks. While the trucks will have human drivers thought the first three years of overburden removal and pit manufacture,  the company expects the robots to progressively take over task.

South Flank has been flagged to replace production from BHP’s 80Mt/y Yandi mine, which is scheduled to reach the end of its economic life next decade.

The project will expand BHP’s existing infrastructure at Mining Area C (MAC), with construction of an 80Mt/y crushing and screening plant, an overland conveyor system, stockyard and train loading facilities, procurement of new mining fleet and substantial mine development and pre-strip work.

BHP is targeting first ore at South Flank, which is expected to have a mine life of more than 25 years, in 2021.

South Flank will be connected to the MAC logistics hub by two conveyor systems that will travel from either end of the 10-kilometre deposit. The longest conveyor will carry ore 14km and is described as technically challenging because of its host terrain. It will then be connected to MAC by a second 2km link. The third conveyor, which will run from the other end of the deposit, will travel 7km mostly downhill and it will generate its own power as it carries the stuff away.