Rio Tinto has committed a further US$3.4 billion (Rio Tinto share $2.9 billion) to the major expansion of its Pilbara iron ore operations in Western Australia.
The investment comprises:
- US$2.2 billion (Rio Tinto 100 per cent) to extend the life of Nammuldi iron ore mine. With this funding, the project to increase production capacity in the Pilbara to 283 million tonnes a year (Mt/s) is now fully approved.
- US$1.2 billion (Rio Tinto share US$700 million) for Cape Lambert port and rail early works needed for the proposed capability expansion to 353 Mt/a. The 353 Mt/a expansion is in final feasibility study, with a final investment expected later this year.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore and Australia chief executive Sam Walsh said: “We believe we have the best quality iron ore expansion projects anywhere in the world. They are high return, low risk investments that are highly value-adding for shareholders.”
Rio Tinto’s expansion marks more than 50 per cent increase in Western Australia’s iron ore operation. The programme remains on track and the mining company is bringing new iron ore production on stream at a time when demand from Asian market is forecast to grow strongly, while industry supply remains constrained.
The Nammuldi project will extend existing mining below the water table, increasing the mine’s life by 14 years, at a production rate of approximately 16 million tonnes a year, while the Cape Lambert funding follows other early works investments already underway. Plans to increase capability at the port have been enhanced by further plans to replace an ageing car dumper with a new dual car dumper, contributing an additional 20 Mt/a to take Cape Lambert capacity to 203 Mt/a in 2015.
The works and plans remain subject to a number of joint venture and regulatory approvals, including environmental clearances, which are expected later this year.