Rio Tinto plans large investment in Australian iron ore projects
Rio Tinto announced that it will invest $US749 million ($A1 billion) to maintain its iron ore production capacity in its Greater Tom Price operations in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
The investment aims to help the company sustain production capacity to meet China’s demand for iron ore.
The Anglo-Australian miner said the investment will boost efforts to mine existing and new iron ore deposits, as well as fund the construction of a new crusher and an accompanying 13-km (8-mile) conveyor to link the Greater Tom Price site's two mines.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said most of the iron ore had been extracted from the existing pit, and this investment would be used to extract the raw material from the site's second mine, the Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 mine.
“This is a sustaining project for our Greater Tom Price region. It will not produce additional capacity,” Salisbury said.
The Financial Review reported that Rio Tinto is seeking government approval for construction to start in the first quarter of 2020 and, if approved, the first ore from the expansion is expected to be produced in 2021.
The ore will feed into Rio Tinto’s production of the Pilbara Blend, a product that mixes two different ores from 13 of Rio Tinto’s mines and “continues to be the preferred baseload product for China's steel mills,” Rio Tinto said.
This project will have potential to produce about 30 Mt/a (33 million stpy) of iron ore, which means Rio expects the cost of construction per tonne will be $25 per tonne of annual capacity.
The investment is included in Rio Tinto’s existing guidance for Pilbara replacement capital for 2020 to 2022.
Salisbury said the investment will produce 1,000 construction jobs at the project’s peak, and will use 20 autonomous long haul trucks.
About 50 percent of the company’s haul truck fleet will be capable of operating autonomously by the end of the year, with plans being assessed to expand this in the years ahead.
Photo credit: Rio Tinto