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Engineering services for Cloudbreak 45mtpa mine site and expansion to 55mtpa

Supporting Fortescue’s rapid growth from their first shipment of iron ore

Project Duration
Commenced: 2007
Estimated Completion
Pilbara region, Western Australia
Project Overview

In less than a decade, Fortescue Metals Group (Fortescue) has gone from strength to strength through its unparalleled growth. Listed in the S&P/ASX20 share index, Fortescue has firmly established itself as one of the world’s leaders in iron ore production and sea-borne trading. The company has holdings of more than 85,000 km2 in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, making it one of largest tenement holders in the state.

Fortescue has achieved numerous milestones in the establishment of its highly successful mining operations in the Pilbara. Critical to its success has been the development of an optimal iron ore supply chain, which now has a run rate in excess of 100 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).

UGL continues to support Fortescue in achieving these unparalleled growth goals through the delivery of comprehensive engineering solutions across multiple disciplines. This includes the delivery and maintenance of high performance heavy haul locomotives and advanced detailing and 3D modelling services for the development of iron ore processing infrastructure. 

The Challenge

Construction of Fortescue’s initial mine, rail and port project commenced in early 2006. Incredibly, just two years later in early 2008, the rail and port infrastructure were completed and operations were underway at Cloudbreak, Fortescue’s flagship mine.

The creation, design, construction and commission of Fortescue’s Cloudbreak minesite was initiated and completed within a timeframe that has set new benchmarks for the industry. UGL was chosen to deliver assets to meet these ambitious, but achievable targets.

The Solution

UGL has supported Fortescue’s expansion in the Pilbara not only through our rail expertise but also in engineering services.

Heavy Haul Locomotives
UGL in partnership with GE Transportation (GE) has supported Fortescue’s extraordinary growth and the development of their supply chain by linking mines to port with proven locomotive technology.

This collaboration was first commissioned by Fortescue in 2007 to supply 15 high performance GE Dash 9 locomotives. On 5 April 2008, iron ore haulage operations commenced from the Fortescue’s Cloudbreak greenfield mine site, to their dedicated shipping facility at Anderson Point in Port Hedland.

Within 12 months from start-up, Fortescue achieved an impressive operational rate of 35 mtpa employing this reliable fleet of locomotives. Four years on, Fortescue was able to haul more than 3,800 trains which equates to 116 million tonnes of iron ore. These remarkable figures could only been achieved by combining very heavy trains with very heavy rated track.

When operations first began in 2008, locomotive axle loads for a fully loaded train were in the region of 26 tonnes which was preceded by gradual calculated increases. By April 2010, Fortescue was recognised as one the heaviest head end power railways in the world, moving freight vehicles with 40-tonne axle loads. This meant that more iron ore could be hauled per trip by employing longer heavier trains.

3D Detailing and Modelling Solutions
Since 2008, UGL has delivered structural detailing services for a variety of significant infrastructure expansions through all of Fortescue’s major growth milestones consisting of T45, T60, and now T155.

Essentially, UGL delivers 3D detailing and modelling solutions which include animated fly throughs for creating mining conveyors and transfer stations.

Like all mining companies in the Pilbara, Fortescue’s operations can be constrained by labour shortages and accommodation restrictions. With that in mind, UGL designed modular solutions which allow for all major structural works to be pre-assembled in Perth at Henderson Point and then barged to Port Hedland. Once assemblies arrive on site, structures are ready to fit straight onto foundations.

UGL has also provided design assistance to Fortescue’s T155 phase in conjunction with WorleyParsons. Preliminary modelling of trusses, trestles, low level modules, chutes and transfer stations commenced using preliminary design information in the aid of fast tracking the design process.

This has improved the pace of project execution which will ultimately accelerate operational throughput for Fortescue as they strive to meet greater export targets.

Key Outcomes and Benefits

UGL’s Steelplan capability has been operating out of Perth since 1973 and boasts over 50 qualified draftspeople. The services provided by UGL has allowed clients like Fortescue to realise a number of project efficiencies such as:

  • Reducing construction error rates
  • Reducing material waste
  • Creating the most effective design outcome which streamlines operational workflow processes

In addition, UGL, in partnership with GE, has supported the development of Fortescue’s supply chain by linking mines to port with proven locomotive technology.

This locomotive fleet has enabled Fortescue to transport more iron ore could per trip by employing longer heavier trains.

Fortescue’s hard-working rail operation is also maintained through a complete locomotive support network provided by UGL and GE. This partnership provides technical expertise, parts, logistics and rotable component repairs from UGL’s maintenance hub situated in Bassendean, Perth.

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