Big bite of South Flank on offer

BHP has asked WA businesses to help build its South Flank iron ore mine in the Pilbara, ahead of an expected go-ahead for the $4.7 billion investment next month.

All up, about 200 individual work packages are expected to be awarded for the project, due to produce its first iron ore in 2021.

BHP Iron Ore Asset President Edgar Basto put out the call to more than 300 people at a supplier information briefing in Perth last week, confirming that South Flank – which is up for approval by the BHP board before the end of next month – would generate about 2500 construction jobs, along with thousands of direct and indirect roles over the mine’s life.

“Our efforts to grow and share our successes with West Australian businesses and communities are reflected in our existing commitment for the South Flank project,” Basto said.

“As of the end of March, $224 million in initial funding for South Flank has been awarded to Australian companies – and 94 per cent of that to local businesses based in WA.”

The pre-approval funding, sanctioned a year ago, included village construction and access roads for the new mine.

“Our large contracts remain contingent on the final approval of South Flank,” Basto said. “But if the board approves the project, we have initiated processes to ensure we work more closely than ever with our contractors to create sustainable employment and business opportunities.”

To ensure high visibility of the opportunities for South Flank, BHP engaged ICN Gateway and Basto urged businesses to register their interest on the site.

The use of ICN Gateway to advertise work packages was a first for BHP Minerals, he said.

Simon Thomas, BHP Project Director of South Flank, said the company aimed to award 85 per cent of construction to Australian companies. Of this, about 90 per cent would be to WA firms, he said.

Although not spelt out by BHP, it means the mining giant hopes to award more than three quarters of the work on South Flank to WA businesses.

Thomas said the initial major contracts would be for earthworks and concrete structures over a vast scale, given that the project area was spread over 15 square kilometres.

“That’s the equivalent of Fremantle to Shelley and back up to the city – it is an immense area,” he said.

Opening the briefing, Premier Mark McGowan said South Flank represented a great opportunity for the state to boost jobs and skills and said he had emphasised to BHP the need to “maximise local content”.

McGowan said that hiring local firms often resulted in higher-quality workmanship for the client than using offshore contractors.

“It’s not always about price”, he said, adding that quality, reliability and having the key people on hand were invaluable on large construction projects such as South Flank.

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