BHP Billiton has approved a $US7.4 billion ($7.2bn) capital investment to continue production growth at its Western Australia iron ore operations.

The mining giant’s partners in its Pilbara iron ore operations are Itochu Minerals & Energy of Australia, Mitsui-Itochu Iron and Mitsui Iron Ore Corp.


BHP said its share of the investment is $US6.6bn


The investment will deliver an integrated operation with capacity in excess of 220 million tonnes per annum or mtpa, on a 100 per cent basis, with first production expected from the new Jimblebar mine in early calendar year 2014.


The investment includes:


* $US3.4bn (BHP Billiton share $US3.3bn) for the development of Jimblebar mine and rail links, and the procurement of mining equipment and rolling stock that will deliver initial capacity of 35 mtpa, with embedded options for expansion to 55 mtpa for incremental capital investment;


* $US2.3bn (BHP Billiton share $US1.9bn) to further develop Port Hedland, including two additional berths and shiploaders, a car dumper, connecting conveyor routes and associated rail works and rolling stock; and


* $US1.7bn (BHP Billiton share $US1.4bn) for port blending facilities and rail yards to enable ore blending, the expansion of resource life and to prepare for the future growth of the business beyond the inner harbour.


BHP Billiton’s share of the investment takes into account the 100 per cent-owned BHP iron ore Jimblebar operation.