BHP Billiton has taken the first step on work at its iron ore mine in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia by awarding a $500m contract to the Fluor Corporation joint venture.

The joint venture between Fluor and Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) is expected to start work on the next phase of Rapid Growth Program at the mine as part of a mine and port development programme.

Under the contract, the joint venture will perform overall programme management and engineering, procurement and construction management services for specific elements of the mine, port and rail works.

Since 2001, Fluor and SKM have provided engineering, procurement, and construction management services to BHP Billiton Iron Ore to assist in the delivery of Rapid Growth Projects 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Fluor and SKM are currently working on Rapid Growth Projects 5 and 6.

The growth programme has won four national and regional awards, including a 2004 Institute of Engineers Australia National Award and a 2004 Railway Technical Society of Australasia award.