BHP has approved $184m funding for the South Flank iron ore project in central Pilbara, Western Australia (WA).

The project will expand the existing Mining Area C hub, and is expected to replace production from the 80Mtpa Yandi mine when it reaches the end of its economic life in the coming decade.

BHP Minerals Australia operations president Mike Henry said: “As well as supporting our current operational requirements, this work will advance potential first ore from South Flank, while we further optimise the full development and progress external and internal approvals.

“As we have said previously, a continuing stable investment environment in WA is required to underpin ongoing investment in the business, including this project.”

The initial funding will enable the expansion of accommodation facilities to support current and future workforce requirements. 

"If approved, it could become one of the largest standalone iron ore processing centres in the world."

It is expected to create several construction jobs and provide opportunities for WA suppliers.

BHP noted that the capital cost for South Flank will be in the range of $30-$40 per tonne.

Henry added: “The capital efficiency of South Flank is underpinned by the planned use of existing infrastructure at the Mining Area C operation, which would, if approved, become one of the largest standalone iron ore processing centres in the world, within reach of several billion tonnes of high-grade ore.”

The project is scheduled to be submitted for board approval in the middle of next year, with production expected in 2021 and ramp-up timed to coincide with the ramp-down of Yandi.