BHP Billiton: speed of rail upgrade puts miner on fast track to boost in Pilbara output – by Matt Chambers (The Australian – January 26, 2017)

BHP Billiton is set to ramp up its West Australian iron ore mines, rail and ports to full ­capacity quicker than previously flagged as a two-year rail system overhaul looks set for completion in little more than a year.

The extra rail capacity could deliver up to an extra 10 million tonnes of iron ore sales in the next two years, more than offsetting the impacts of power outages and unplanned maintenance at the Olympic Dam copper and ­uranium mine in South Australia, which caused a 40,000-tonne cut in copper guidance this year.

In its quarterly production ­report, released yesterday, BHP said that an extensive overhaul of the company’s big private Pilbara region railways, ordered by ­Australian mining president Mike Henry in March last year as one of his first edicts in the position, was moving at a cracking pace.

“The rail renewal and ­maintenance program, which will ­support the supply chain’s ­long-term reliability, is progressing ahead of schedule and is now ­expected to be completed in the June 2017 quarter,” BHP said.

When it was announced in April last year, the rail overhaul was slated to be a two-year ­program that would have been finished in the March quarter of 2018.

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