Celebration Marks Four Decades of Iron Ore Deliveries from Mt. Newman

Starting 40 years ago with an initial annual output of 6.45 million mt/y of iron ore, the original Mt. Newman
project in the eastern Pilbara region of Western Australia is now one of three major production and shipping
hubs in the region that allow BHP Billiton to export more than 124 million mt/y of ore. Shown here is recent
construction activity at the Newman Hub’s loadout facililty. (Photo courtesy of BHP Billiton)
On July 8, BHP Billiton Iron Ore and Western Australia’s Pilbara communities celebrated a significant milestone in Australia’s mining history by marking the 40th anniversary of the railing and shipping of the first iron ore mined from the Mt. Newman project (now known as BHP Billiton Iron Ore’s Newman Joint Venture).

The anniversary highlighted the combined achievements of BHP Billiton Iron Ore, Mitsui & Co., Itochu Corp., their predecessors Mt. Newman and Goldsworthy Mining, and the communities of Port Hedland and Newman.

In 1969, the Mt. Newman project celebrated three major milestones: the first iron ore was railed from Newman’s Mt. Whaleback mine; the first shipment of iron ore left Nelson Point in Port Hedland on the Osumi Maru and the Mt. Newman project was officially opened at Mt. Whaleback in Newman.

That year, a total of 6.45 million mt was mined and shipped from the region. Today, BHP Billiton Iron Ore exports more than 124 million mt/y of iron ore.

Since 2002, BHP Billiton Iron Ore has approved more than US$10 billion in expansion projects. The company’s investment will continue with installed capacity of the company’s Pilbara operations expected to reach approximately 300 million mt by 2015.

The true scope of the economic potential of the region’s iron ore resources was first uncovered by A.S. Hilditch in 1957. Hilditch made a vast iron ore discovery while searching for manganese, aware that iron ore was of little value because of a federal government embargo on its export that would not be lifted until 1960.

The lifting of the embargo made way for one of the world’s largest iron ore developments—the Mt. Newman project, which saw more than A$2.2 billion invested in the Pilbara’s iron ore production facilities, railways, ports and new towns.

The small tidal port of Port Hedland, established as a town in 1896 to service the pastoral industry and the mining of gold and tin, is today Australia’s largest port in terms of annual tonnage throughput.

In 1966, the town of Newman was established as five joint venture partners— BHP, AMAX, CSR, Seltrust and Mitsui-C. Itoh (Itochu)—invested in the development of the Mt. Whaleback operation, a 426-km railway to the coast and new port facilities at Nelson Point in Port Hedland. BHP was appointed manager of the project.

As featured in Womp 2009 Vol 06 - www.womp-int.com