According to The Australian Financial Review, BHP Billiton has accelerated the development of its $US2 billion-plus South Flank iron ore mine by approving $US184 million in initial funding for the Pilbara project ahead of a final investment decision expected next year.
Envisaged to replace 80 million tonnes of annual production from its large Yandi mine, the total development cost for South Flank would likely fall between $US2.4 billion and $US3.2 billion ($3.2 billion-$4.2 billion).
In March, BHP flagged South Flank as the preferred option to replace Yandi, which is nearing the end of its economic life and will need to be replaced "in the early-to-mid-2020s".
BHP revealed on Monday it would put the South Flank project to the board by mid-2018. BHP said the development is expected to cost between $US30 and $US40 a tonne.
"The project is expected to be submitted for board approval in the middle of the 2018 calendar year, with first ore targeted in the 2021 calendar year and ramp-up timed to coincide with the ramp-down of Yandi," BHP said.
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