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BHP has reported a four per cent increase in metallurgical coal production in the past quarter, with Blackwater back at full capacity towards the end of that period.

The company said guidance for the 2021 financial year remained unchanged at between 40 and 44 Mt in relation to its stake in the metallurgical coal mines (71- 77 Mt on a 100 per cent basis).

However it said it was monitoring for any potential impacts from restrictions on coal imports into China.

Strong underlying operational performance at its Queensland coal operations, including record truck and shovel stripping, was partially offset by planned major wash plant shutdowns at Blackwater, Goonyella, Saraji and Caval Ridge, the company reported.

The largest mine, Blackwater, mine, was back at full capacity by the end of September 2020, following recovery from significant wet weather impacts in the March 2020 quarter.

The company’s thermal coal production decreased by 17 per cent to 5 Mt, with guidance for the 2021 financial year under review due to an ongoing strike at Cerrejón.

BHP chief executive officer Mike Henry said that overall group production rose two per cent from a year ago driven by solid results in metallurgical coal and iron ore.

Major major growth projects made good progress, and the company secured more options in copper, nickel and oil, he said.

“While our copper operations in South America continue to be impacted by COVID-19 preventative measures, we achieved strong concentrator throughput at Escondida and expect first production from the Spence Growth Option before the end of March 2021,” Mr Henry said.

“In Australia, Olympic Dam delivered its best quarterly production in the past five years and we are on track for first production from South Flank in the middle of the 2021 calendar year.

“In petroleum, we have entered an agreement to increase our interest in the tier one Shenzi asset while delivering first production from Atlantis Phase 3 ahead of schedule and within budget.

“In copper, we secured an option agreement in the Northern Territory in Australia and saw further promising exploration results from Oak Dam. We
bolstered our nickel options with an exploration alliance in Canada and completion of the Honeymoon Well acquisition.

“With a period of uncertainty to navigate, our efforts to be safer, more reliable and lower cost are as important as ever. We are alive to the challenges ahead but we look forward with confidence in our people and our strategy.”