BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto continued to report record levels of iron ore production in Western Australia for their reporting periods ending June 30 (the end of BHP’s fiscal year and the end of Rio Tinto’s fiscal first half.) 

BHP’s Western Australia Iron Ore unit delivered its 13th consecutive annual production record of 187 million metric tons (mt) (100% basis, including production attributable to minority partners). During the June quarter, shipments were running at an annualized rate of 217 million mt, reflecting the successful commissioning of all major infrastructure associated with Western Australia Iron Ore’s Inner Harbour expansion project at Port Hedland and the destocking of mine and port inventory built in anticipation of the increase in port capacity.

Western Australia Iron Ore’s production is expected to increase to approximately 207 million mt (100% basis) in BHP Billiton’s 2014 financial year. First production from the Jimblebar mine expansion is now anticipated in the December quarter, ahead of schedule. Longer term, the progressive debottlenecking of the supply chain is expected to underpin substantial low-cost growth in Western Australia Iron Ore’s business.

Rio Tinto’s Pilbara operations in Western Australia produced 120 million mt of iron ore during the first half of 2013 (Rio Tinto share 100 million mt), setting a first-half record. Expansion projects remain on track, despite challenging weather conditions. Completion of the Rail Capacity Expansion infrastructure project in the second quarter marked the latest major milestone. 

Rio Tinto’s phase-two expansion of port, rail, and power infrastructure to 360 million mt/y is currently under way. A number of options for mine capacity growth are under evaluation, including the potential development of new mines and incremental tons from further productivity improvement at existing mines.