The funds approved will enable the company to progress feasibility studies and the procurement of long lead time items. It will also allow for dredging to begin, subject to the necessary regulatory approvals.
In parallel with this work, engineering studies are underway to match mine and rail expansions to the expanded port capacity, the company said.
The first phase of the Outer Harbour Development would include the proposed construction of a four km jetty, a four-berth wharf, 32 km of dredged departure channel and landside infrastructure, including stockyards and a rail spur.
Start-up would be in the first half of calendar year 2016.
“This investment is an important first step in providing the infrastructure to allow us to fully develop our world class resource base in the Pilbara,” said BHP Billiton president iron ore, Ian Ashby.
“The development of the outer harbour is pivotal for our longer term growth objectives and this initial funding is rapidly turning those plans into a reality.”