BHP has completed Australia- and world-firsts at Port Hedland, in Western Australia, involving the award of a wind fences contract and testing of two new automated shiploaders at the port operations.
The automation world first is aimed at providing significant safety, production and cost benefits, BHP said, using 3D laser scan technology as part of the A$50 million ($36 million) project to fully automate eight shiploaders by 2023.
The eight shiploaders – at BHP’s Nelson Point and Finucane Island operations – are responsible for loading about 1,500 bulk ore carriers every year, exporting approximately 280 Mt of iron ore to global customers in 2021.
The project is expected to enable an increase in production of more than 1 Mt/y, through the combination of greater precision, reduced spillage, faster load times and equipment optimisation, BHP said.
An additional 12 jobs have been created through this project, located in the Integrated Remote Operations Centre in Perth. The number of Port Hedland-based roles remains unchanged, with existing staff being deployed across the shiploaders and through a range of other production-based roles.
BHP’s Asset President WA Iron Ore, Brandon Craig, said: “The shiploader automation project shows that our Pilbara teams are at the forefront of innovation, technology and operational excellence. Automating our shiploaders will improve safety for our people and allow us to load our ships more precisely and efficiently, including through automatic adjustments for weather, hazards and other variable port conditions.”
The shiploaders will transition towards becoming fully automated later this year. Once completed, the ship loading operations will be operated from the Integrated Remote Operations Centre in Perth.
Australia’s first wind fences, meanwhile, are designed to reduce dust emissions as part of BHP’s A$300 million air quality commitment. They will be built in Port Hedland by CIMIC Group’s CPB Contractors.
Announcing the successful tender in Port Hedland, BHP and CPB Contractors said three fences would be built at BHP’s Nelson Point and Finucane Island operations. Construction of the wind fences is expected to start in August 2022 and take 14 months to complete.
Up to 150 employees will be involved in the construction of the project, with up to 10% Indigenous employment.
Designed for the Pilbara’s unique weather conditions, and rated specifically to withstand cyclones, the fences will include mesh panels designed to reduce wind speeds, shielding BHP’s stockpiles and reducing the potential for dust lift-off, it said.
The fences will abate dust emissions in current operations and ensure no net increases in dust emissions should operations expand over time.
BHP Port General Manager, Cindy Dunham, said: “The wind fences will be constructed using global best practice dust management and air quality control technology.
“The investment forms part of our Pilbara Air Quality Program and demonstrates our commitment to the region and contribution to the revitalisation of the West End.”
CPB Contractors General Manager WA, SA & NT, Andrew Giammo, said: “Construction of the wind fences will involve the fabrication of 3,000 t of structural steel – this work will be undertaken here in WA and will be a major boost to local industry.”
The wind fences, which will be fabricated and built in Western Australia, are designed to control dust from BHP’s port operations and will be the first of their kind in Australia.
The 30-m-high fences, which span a length of 2 km, will include mesh panels designed to reduce wind speeds, shielding the stockyard and reducing the potential for dust lift-off. As the wind speed reaches a certain limit, the mesh curtain opens, to let the air flow through the fence.