BHP releases online shipping platform

BHP Billiton has released an online auctioning platform for shippers to offer the best haulage price for commodities such as iron ore.
The company hopes the platform will help reduce costs as it avoids brokers who usually negotiate vessel-hire rates between shippers and cargo owners, Reuters reports.
It could also alter the way mining companies contract freight services.
The system is thought to be the first of its kind for a major charterer, although similar platforms have used by companies such as Ocean Freight Exchange.
BHP held its first cargo auction using the platform this week, where 13 ship owners and operators – including Japanese-based Mistui OSK – submitted bids to ship 170,000 tonnes of iron ore from Western Australia through to China in February.
Company spokesperson Angela Perera said they received more than 50 submissions within an hour, with the final price nearly 30c below the spot price.
The winning bidder was not identified.
The platform, however, could affect the ship broking industry, as an anonymous source from French company Barry Rogliano Salles said, “If BHP finds its workable, maybe Rio Tinto and FMG (Fortescue Metals Group) would do online auctions as well which will affect almost all brokers in the market.”
In the year to June 30, BHP spent US$764 million ($1 billion) shipping 275 million tonnes of iron ore from WA globally.

Port jobs in the firing line as BHP review continues

An ongoing review at BHP Billiton’s iron ore operations could see thousands of jobs lost in Western Australia.

There are reports that BHP is looking to cut around 20 per cent of its WA workforce or close to 3000 jobs as it looks to improve costs at its iron ore business.

Any job cuts would come on top of the hundreds recently stripped out of the miner’s metal operations.

More than 100 workers were cut from the company’s iron ore headquarters in Perth last month, while 170 workers were chopped from Mt Whaleback mine in the Pilbara.

 The West Australian reports BHP’s Port Hedland port operations could see 100 job losses in the coming weeks.

While the company’s contractor workforce is also said to be in the firing line.

BHP is said to be acting on recommendations made in a report by management consulting firm McKinsey and Company.

A BHP spokeswoman confirmed the company had engaged external consultants, but refused to be drawn on exact numbers associated with any cost-cutting measures.

“BHP Billiton Iron Ore regularly undertakes improvement initiatives and organisational reviews as part of an ongoing focus on productivity and cost reduction,” she said.

The review is said to be aimed at ensuring BHP’s iron ore arm remains “a competitive, world-class operation.”

“We have been open with our employees about the work being done to improve productivity, and the review, and we hold regular all employee Town Hall meetings and question and answer sessions with the business leaders as a matter of course.”

As the mining phase moves from investment-led construction to a production focus, BHP has placed a renewed and aggressive emphasis on productivity and efficiency gains across its entire portfolio in an effort to simplify mining operations.

BHP said a productivity focus is “not new”.

Autonomous truck trials flagged for BHP coal mines

In an attempt to improve productivity and reduce costs, BHP’s trial of driverless haul truck technology is set to expand from Pilbara iron ore mines to east coast coal mines.

BHP coal boss Dean Dalla Valle has revealed two coal mines in the company’s portfolio are set to test the autonomous trucks after successful trials in New Mexico.

“We’re looking at two opportunities in coal to do the same thing, in Queensland and NSW,”  Dalla Valle told The Australian.

“There’s no doubt it will happen, and I’d like to think that within 12 months we will be running trials.”

Last month the company announced it would expand its autonomous truck trials at iron ore sites across the Pilbara citing a number of reasons including safety and productivity as part of its push to implement the technology.

In mid-2014 the trial will include a second circuit at Jimblebar mine and an increase to the fleet, with six new trucks operating in the pits at nearby Wheelarra mine.

Dalla Valle said the technology would work well to haul coal.

“It’s slightly different but once the system’s up and running, it should work effectively in both,” he said.

“They are effectively the same model of trucks, just carrying a different product.”

While automation is becoming the norm in Western Australia, with Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill mine being purpose-built to accommodate the technology, coal trials on the east coast are still in their infancy.

The Meandu coal mine, run by Stanwell Corporation, was an early adapter, starting a three-year trial  in 2013 in conjunction with Hitachi Construction Machinery (Australia).

Accenture mining program and project manager Nigel Court told Australian Mining the way automation is being implemented by companies is changing.

"Automation is now being looked to not as a panacea to fix productivity and efficiency on site, rather "people are focusing on how it can be applied to solve specific problems encountered on site,” Court said.

Union talks with BHP over train driver pay to recommence

Pay deals between BHP and its rail drivers have recommenced after the miner failed to meet union demands of pay rises, cheap rent in the Pilbara and extra annual leave.

The CFMEU said BHP’s three-year pay offer was rejected by about 60 per cent of 350 rail drivers in April this year.

Pay negotiations with BHP Billiton started last year, representing the continuing strengthening of CFMEU presence in the Pilbara.

The union negotiations are the first major talks with BHP in the Pilbara for more than a decade.

Wood told Australian Mining negotiations were set to recommence in the coming weeks.

Wood said the offer was rejected because the company did not meet a key demand for guaranteed annual pay rises of “ideally between 4 or 5 per cent.”

Wood also said workers were distrustful of BHP Billiton's offer for performance-based annual increases, adding that the miner failed to meet other key demands including for FIFO workers to be awarded an extra four hours of annual leave per swing to compensate for travel time to and from site.

This has the potential of adding an extra week or two to annual leave per year, depending on each employee‘s roster, The West Australian reported.

Wood said that the drivers should be able recoup time when travelling to and from site during their R&R leave.

The third key demand was for 50 Port Hedland-based train drivers to gain access to BHP-owned housing.

In return, the staff would give up an existing $1800 weekly allowance for offsite accommodation.

Wood said rental homes cost more than $2000 a week in Port Hedland and with workers fearing rents could increase further.

In 2011 Rio Tinto lost a High Court battle over bypassing unions in negotiations with workers on its Pilbara iron ore operations with the decision sparking fear that the unions return would see outrageous demands fly.

However Woods said the union demands were proof it was being responsible.

He told ABC News the CFMEU entered the bargaining in good faith.

"We are not going into the discussions trying to turn the world upside down, what we are trying to do is hopefully get an agreement which accommodates both the employees and the employer," he said.

Image: abc.net

BHP fast tracks iron ore modernisation

BHP Billiton is fast tracking the modernisation of its Pilbara iron ore division, coinciding with the launch of its new remote operation centre in Perth.

The move will also attempt to reduce contractor spending, SMH reports.

BHP's iron ore boss, Jimmy Wilson, will open the ''integrated remote operating centre'' with WA Premier Colin Barnett today.

The centre’s launch adds to the growing trend of mine site automisation and remote control initiatives with mining and logistics work in the Pilbara increasingly being controlled in Perth.

Rio Tinto already runs a similar operation out of Perth Airport and Roy Hill Holdings is also developing a remote operation centre for its iron ore mine, port and rail project.

Earlier this year BHP said it will focus on automated equipment and new technology as it moves toward “next generation mining”.

BHP accused of rolling over on vehicle safety

In a phased approach from this year onwards, only vehicles with a Five Star Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating will be allowed on BHP mine sites.

The policy applies to both BHP fleet and contractor owned vehicles on any BHP site anywhere in the world and to all new vehicles brought into service from January 2013 onwards.

The policy also prohibits the fitment of non-ANCAP compliant bull bars and aftermarket suspension kits (and upgrades) as well as roll over protection. But why now?

When contacted by Australian Mining, a BHP spokesperson said the company was committed to safety.

“The health and safety of all of our employees and contractors is our absolute priority,” she said.

“BHP Billiton continually reviews the company policies and procedures to ensure best practice is maintained.

 “Our decision to move to the highest ANCAP safety rating will, by 2016, improve the safety rating of an estimated 50,000 vehicles a year in Australia alone, resulting in broad community benefits as safer vehicles appear on the road."

ANCAP have applauded the new measure by BHP stating that it will force car manufacturers into implementing higher levels of safety in light commercial market vehicles.

ANCAP chief, Nicholas Clarke, said the move would encourage car makers to take on similar policies.

“This demonstrates the supporting influence big business can have on manufacturers and we encourage other businesses, large and small, to consider adopting a similar policy,” Clarke said.

“With one third of compensable work related fatalities involving a vehicle, vehicle safety is paramount in protecting our employees, and investing in safer vehicles is an investment in the safety of these employees.”

But with the ANCAP rating focused on the issues of on-road safety, not off-road, many believe the new policy will present increased safety risks to employees.

Critics are also concerned over the fact that aftermarket products like bull bars and upgraded suspension cannot be retro-fitted, further adding to on-site safety issues.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union have also expressed concerns over the safety of the new policy.

Health and safety representative Greg Dalliston said he was concerned that new standards reduced rollover protection.

“All I've asked is that they show the standard that was on the vehicles before and the standard they've got now, the new standard, is equal to or better than what they had before and so far they can't show me that.”

 Dalliston said while they accounted for only a small number of total accidents, one-in-five fatalities were from rollovers.

 “We've had 29 rollovers since January last year on mines in Queensland — 17 on coal mines and with the protective structures we've had in place, we've only had one person with some slight injuries,” he said.

The Australian 4 Wheel Drive Industry have also questioned the occupant safety protection afforded by the introduction new the policy.

Spokesman for the 4WD Industry Council (4WDIC) Stuart Charity, said it strongly supports the drive to improve vehicle occupant safety on and around mine sites but is disappointed by the lack of consultation.

"On the surface, most people would view the BHP policy as a great step forward. However, the 4WDIC is disappointed at the lack of consultation and the 'one size fits all' policy outcome,” he said.

"Australia has a large and innovative 4WD aftermarket industry. It offers a wide range of Australian Design Rule (ADR) approved products designed to protect vehicles and occupants in our hostile remote regions.

"Among those proven products are bull bars, suspension enhancements for additional load bearing capacity and roll over protection systems (ROPS). The BHP policy takes little from the aftermarket industry's extensive knowledge and experience in engineering vehicles to suit their intended end use.

"While the 4WDIC supports the move to ANCAP Five Star ratings for mining vehicles, we see no need to ban the fitment of safety equipment that does not adversely affect compliance with mandatory vehicle standards and does not reduce the safety performance of the vehicle.

“The 4WDIC believes this ban will result in vehicles that are less safe on public roads and in remote areas."

Charity has also accused the major miner of slashing costs at the risk of workers safety.

"We believe their intent was to reduce costs on the fit-out of vehicles using an ANCAP [rating] as a justification for everything but as I say, ANCAP has significant limitations when you're driving in the sort of conditions that these vehicles are driven in.”

Charity says the policy does not make sense.

"We know that vehicles need to be modified for their end use – we've got supporting data to prove that," he said.

"We've given that [to] BHP, they've chosen to ignore that.”

He added that vehicles are built off global platforms and sold into 40 different countries.

"We don't believe they're designed for the end use of mining applications," he said.

According to Global NCAP, BHP’s decision was based on recent research at Crashlab in Sydney, to assess if bullbars and ROPS contribute to an increased risk of injury to vehicle occupants.

In its testing, four Toyota Hilux dual cabs were used – three of these vehicles were fitted with ROPS and one without.  All four test vehicles were fitted with a steel bullbar. 

The vehicle fitted with ROPS rolled 180 degrees onto its roof in the first test.  The vehicle without ROPS rolled onto its side.  The vehicle without ROPS was re-tested with 35kgs of ballast above the rear screen of the cab (to simulate the weight of ROPS at roof level) and rolled onto its roof.

For these vehicles and test configurations, the results showed:

  • for the corkscrew rollover test the ROPS structure appeared to increase propensity for the vehicle to roll by increasing the centre of gravity height.
  • ROPS did not eliminate roof crush over the front seated occupants and, for a rollover of this type and severity, the ROPS demonstrated limited potential to reduce the risk of serious injury to the front seat occupants
  • any ROPS structure which prevents the as-designed deployment of side curtain airbags for the front and rear seat occupants greatly increases the risk of serious head or brain injuries in side impacts (with trees, poles and other vehicles).
  • the bull bar fitted to the frontal offset crash test vehicle caused intrusion into the footwell and displacement of pedals which was not present in the ANCAP test of the same vehicle without a bull bar.

However, Susie Bozzini, a researcher at the Center of Injury research in California, is not convinced.

“Production vehicles generally have weak roofs: they crush at the front pillar when the windshield breaks and the roof caves in on the front seat occupants,”she explained.

“BMA ran a test with a production vehicle with a weak roof and the roof crushed significantly. Then BMA performed the same test on the same vehicle with an internal 4-posted ROPS structure. This type of structure is fitted behind the front seats at the B-Pillar area and extends rearward to the C-Pillar. This internal ROPS works when the vehicle rolls without forward pitch, meaning nose down. However, when a vehicle  rolls over with pitch, the forces are on the front of the roof at the A-Pillar and windshield header. 

“So, it is not surprising that BMA got the same result with a production vehicle and an internal 4-posted ROPS for the type of test they did

“I believe their goal was to be able to say that ROPS didn't make a difference, so why spend the money on them?” she said.

“We recognise that industry members and representative may have concerns when we implement changes to our safety policies and procedures,” BHP told Australian Mining.

“However no changes are implemented without extensive research and consultation to ensure the most relevant safety technologies are adopted globally.

“We remain confident this is the right decision for our workforce and the community as safer vehicles appear on the road.”

But with the CFMEU claiming that the company refuses to hand over information regarding safety ratings –evidence of how the new policy will affect workers will result from the statistics collected when accidents occur.

From the reaction from our readers who work on mine sites, most are clear about which vehicles they would rather operate.

“I would prefer to be in a vehicle with roll over protection on a mine than 5 star ANCAP,” one said.

“The ROPS secondary function is to give structural integrity (survival space) to the vehicle body in case of a landslide falling on top of the vehicle, especially on a rollover off ramps to open pits,” another worker noted.

The only thing left to see is if BHP will roll over to public opinion, or crush dissent.

Images: ancap.com; theaustralian.com; bhpbilliton.com

4WD Industry questions BHP Billiton light vehicle policy

The Australian 4 Wheel Drive Industry is questioning the occupant safety protection afforded by the recent introduction by BHP Billiton of a new policy to limit light vehicle access to its mine sites.

In a phased approach from 2013 onwards, only vehicles with a Five Star Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating will be allowed on sites.


The policy also prohibits the fitment of non ANCAP compliant bull bars and aftermarket suspension kits (and upgrades) as well as roll over protection. 

The policy applies to both BHP fleet and contractor owned vehicles on any BHP site anywhere in the world and to all new vehicles brought into service from January 2013 onwards.

Spokesman for the 4WD Industry Council (4WDIC) Stuart Charity, said it strongly supports the drive to improve vehicle occupant safety on and around mine sites but is disappointed by the lack of consultation.

"On the surface, most people would view the BHP policy as a great step forward. However, the 4WDIC is disappointed at the lack of consultation and the 'one size fits all' policy outcome,” he said.

"Australia has a large and innovative 4WD aftermarket industry. It offers a wide range of Australian Design Rule (ADR) approved products designed to protect vehicles and occupants in our hostile remote regions.

"Among those proven products are bull bars, suspension enhancements for additional load bearing capacity and roll over protection systems (ROPS). The BHP policy takes little from the aftermarket industry's extensive knowledge and experience in engineering vehicles to suit their intended end use.

"While the 4WDIC supports the move to ANCAP Five Star ratings for mining vehicles, we see no need to ban the fitment of safety equipment that does not adversely affect compliance with mandatory vehicle standards and does not reduce the safety performance of the vehicle. The 4WDIC believes this ban will result in vehicles that are less safe on public roads and in remote areas."

Image: aftermarket.com

BHP preparing for Port Hedland outer harbour

BHP Billiton hopes to begin pre-construction piling at Port Hedland this Friday, the first step in its $10 billion outer harbour project.

The two-month operation will install three test piles along the route of the proposed outer harbour jetty.

Five other steel piles will be installed to support survey equipment, with the entire project working between 1.7km and 31.5km off the Port Hedland coast.

Earlier this year the company approved close to $1 billion in pre-commitment funding for the Outer Harbour and revised plans for a fly-in fly-out camp to house construction workers.

The company initially proposed a 6,000-person camp but after its rejection the number was revised to 2,000 with the option to add a further 2,000.

BHP’s board is expected to give total approval to the Outer Harbour Development later this year.

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