Officials at No. 1 miner BHP Billiton have announced the official opening of their $3.2 billion Jimblebar iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara, in one of the world’s most ore-prolific regions. By post-Q4 2015, the massive complex will feature a phase one capacity of 35 million tons per year (mt/y).

BHP Billiton Iron Ore President Jimmy Wilson was joined at a ceremony by West Australian Premier Colin Barnett and representatives of joint venture partners ITOCHU Corp. and Mitsui & Co. Ltd. to open the project 40 km east of Newman, where first production was delivered in Q4 2013.

The installment of four mobile crushers will increase Western Australia’s full iron ore supply chain capacity to more than 220 mt/y on a 100% basis. Longer term, low cost options to expand Jimblebar to 55 mt/y, amid broader supply chain debottlenecking, according to officials, is forecast to bloster capacity growth up to 270 mt/y, also on a 100% basis.

Wilson praised the extensive planning and research that brought the project to life —while noting mobile crib rooms and fueling stations close to pits “so trucks spend more time moving earth and less traveling or parked,” he said.

Wilson further detailed a second extension of the project’s autonomous ongoing truck trial to neighboring Wheelarra operations using six Caterpillar 793-F trucks, which began in Q2 2013. From Q3 2014, the trial will expand to include a second Jimblebar circuit; six more trucks will then operate at four Wheelarra pits, enabling ore dumping into a newly tied-in Wheelarra crusher.

The full trial is testing the roles, processes and technology for safe operation of the trucks during production, according to BHP company representatives; expanded use may be investigated pending the outcome.

Overall, “productivity and excellence is delivering significant value; the business is well positioned to deliver high growth at a lower cost,” Wilson added, while noting $1.2 billion in regional investments encompassing community projects, regional development and infrastructure. “The agreement will build on our existing relationship.”