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Fortescue opens the Kings Valley iron ore mine

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Fortescue has officially opened its 40 million tonne per annum Kings Valley iron ore mine in its Solomon Hub, in the Pilbara.

According to Fortescue this milestone marks the completion of its US$9.2 billion Pilbara expansion.

The official opening of the project now brings FMG's total production capacity to its planned 155 mtpa.

"Today marks one of the most important milestones in Fortescue's history," FMG chairman Andrew Forrest said.

"We announced a major expansion of our port, rail, and mining operations in November 2010 and set ourselves the ambitious target of completing the projects by June 2014. Today we are celebrating an extraordinary achievement that is testament tot he hard work and commitment of everyone at Fortescue, and the thousands of people who worked on these projects."

FMG officially opened the other mine at its Solomon Hub, Firetail, close to a year ago, which was part of the wider Solomon development and Christmas Creek expansion.

As part of Kings Valley's development it has also installed automated trucks.

Caterpillar and FMG signed an autonomous truck deal last year.

Eight 'Command for Hauling' Cat 793F CMD trucks have been commissioned and started operations.

The mine plan will see this fleet expand and ramp up to 45 autonomous trucks over the next several years.

Leighton Contractors, which secured the $2.8 billion contract for Kings mid-last year, will operate the trucks.

Nev Power, Fortescue's CEO, said the Solomon Hub represents a "valuable new source of low cost production for Fortescue with its low strip ratios playing an important role in reducing the company's overall operating costs".

"The Firetail and Kings Valley projects have evolved Fortescue's product mix," Power said.

"Channel Iron Deposits (CID) ore produced from Kings valley will become a new standalone product while ore from Firetail is blended in with Chichester ores to create the well-received Fortescue blend."

The miner has also put a major focus on sourcing local content for the operation, with "86% of the money spent on the Kings Valley project going to Australian suppliers".

It has also stayed the course on its commitment to Aborigines and Indigenous businesses.

"An integral feature of the success at Solomon is the way we have integrated employment and sustainable business opportunities for Aboriginal people to break the cycle of disadvantage," Power said.

The miner has awarded 22 contracts and sub-contracts, worth a combined $583 million, at Solomon to Aboriginal owned businesses.

"A total of 175 Aboriginal people work at the Solomon Hub for Fortescue and its contracting partners, including 44 graduates of Fortescue's Vocational Training and Education Centre in Roeburne," he added, stating that around 13% of the company's entire workforce is Indigenous.

The miner has awarded more than $1 billion worth of contracts to Aboriginal businesses.

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