Mammoet has helped BHP deliver on its goals for the South Flank iron ore project in the Pilbara of Western Australia, using its expertise to transport over 1,000 oversized items to site safely and on time.
These components needed to be transported to site safely, on schedule and in the right sequence. With a cumulative weight in excess of 29,500 t, they needed to be transported 340 km across the state’s barren interior. This had to be done within a demanding timeframe to keep the construction schedule on track, according to Mammoet, a feat achieved and confirmed with the first ore milestone at South Flank in May of this year.
The cargo would be taken from the ship’s hook at Port Hedland and across a route largely consisting of public highways. Transporting these modules in the largest possible pieces would reduce the time spent integrating them on site – but the maximum transport size is always limited by the width and condition of the route, Mammoet says.
The possibilities for what could be transported on this stretch of tarmac were pushed to new limits as Mammoet delivered a 349 t module comprising the train load out bin gate and HPU module. This was the heaviest load ever carried along this stretch of Western Australia’s Great Northern Highway.
Restrictions were also placed on when modules could be transported, which varied depending on their size: those wider than 8.5 m needed to travel at night, so that the transport had the lowest economic impact on the surrounding community and public road users. A rolling roadblock was set up to shut down the highway in sections, minimising the transport’s impact further still.
To achieve this required logistics planning and early engagement with the project’s construction contractors to identify precisely what could be transported and how.
Pete O’Connell, Senior Project Manager at Mammoet, explains: “Engagement at the planning stage with engineering, procurement and construction contractors can help to optimise how our package of work integrates with other workflows. It was particularly critical in this case – given the size and volume of components that needed to be on site in a specific order and timeframe for construction to proceed smoothly.
“We were able to advise the modularisation engineers on how to get maximum benefit from the load sizes possible on the route, in terms of their overall dimensions and the maximum weights to cross structures such as bridges. We were then able to plan from the very start the equipment and expertise we would need to best carry out the work.”
Mammoet used a specially-built trailer type to minimise the weight of the transport equipment itself and, therefore, increase the size of module that could be carried. Overall weight limitations on Australian highways meant a lighter alternative to the traditionally used four-file platform trailer was needed to avoid reducing the size of the modules themselves.
Smaller module sizes, of course, mean more transportation – and, in turn, additional transport and integration costs. Mammoet’s equipment inventory was put to good use in devising a three-file trailer solution. This allowed the desired size of module to be transported within local regulations.
Delivery of such a large scale of transport work was already a significant challenge within the planned 15-month timescale, but, due to delays earlier in the project schedule, this cargo needed to be transported in a shorter timeframe, according to Mammoet.
Despite ongoing travel restrictions due to COVID-19, Mammoet was able to mobilise a team of over 90 people – half of whom came from outside the state or abroad. Before long, crews were working across day and night shifts at Port Hedland, keeping things on schedule.
Another important part of this solution was to increase the number of trailers being used, avoiding the need for them to be reconfigured between journeys, hence achieving a faster turnaround. With the industry’s biggest equipment fleet, Mammoet says it was able to redeploy trailers from across Australia and the wider region.
O’Connell continues: “Flexibility is always key in large projects such as this, as changes in project schedules are to be expected. As the largest supplier in our industry, the talent pool, training capabilities and equipment inventory that we have access to prove invaluable in making sure we can react quickly and adapt to client requirements – avoiding delays even if there is a change to the plan.”
A key development in driving economic growth for the Pilbara region and the State of Western Australia, BHP’s $3.6 billion South Flank mine has created more than 2,500 construction jobs and 600 ongoing operational roles. It is set to provide a profitable asset for BHP and secure employment for the Pilbara population for decades to come, Mammoet says.
Wouter Mink, Managing Director of Mammoet Australia, says: “We are delighted that South Flank delivered first ore during May 2021. This project helps to continue our commitment to the Pilbara region. The transport package was always going to play a key role in achieving this, and we were extremely pleased to have delivered this successfully despite the challenges we faced – including a global pandemic impacting on how, when and where we could source our team.”
Construction of this facility using modern modularised techniques was aided significantly by Mammoet’s expertise in getting over 1,000 oversized items to site safely and on time, and also by providing critical guidance to optimise the size of cargo and ensure the most efficient project.
Heath Tyler, BHP South Flank Area Project Manager, says: “The South Flank project represents a major investment by BHP and a key element in our strategy for the region. With the transport package playing such a critical part in achieving a successful build, we needed a partner that had the proven expertise, equipment and boots on the ground to deliver. Mammoet has proven a great fit for these criteria.”