Robot drills kick off at South Flank

THE first autonomous drill rig has broken ground at BHP’s US$3.6 billion South Flank project.
Robot drills kick off at South Flank Robot drills kick off at South Flank Robot drills kick off at South Flank Robot drills kick off at South Flank Robot drills kick off at South Flank

BHP's IROC in Perth

Staff reporter

The Pit Viper 271 is the first of five autonomous drill rigs that will operate at South Flank, controlled remotely from the BHP Integrated Remote Operations Centre (IROC) in Perth.

Another four drills will arrive over the next three years.

South Flank project director Simon Thomas said the drill marked the first piece of equipment to be operated from the IROC.

"The South Flank project is tracking well to meet all milestones with more than $1.5 billion awarded in 177 contracts for bulk earthworks/concrete, non-process infrastructure, steel fabrication and machine fabrication/installation," he said.

"Importantly, 83% of those contracts have been awarded to Western Australia-based companies and more than half has been awarded to Pilbara-based companies."

With eventual capacity of 80 million tonnes per annum, South Flank is the largest iron ore and processing facility built in the Pilbara in more than 50 years of mining.

BHP broke ground at South Flank in July and there are currently more than 600 people onsite.

First ore is targeted in 2021, followed by a three-year ramp-up period.