Rio Tinto Greenlights Pilbara Iron Ore Expansion

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

The mini investment boom in the Pilbara iron ore province of WA continues with Rio Tinto approving a $1 billion ($US749 million) investment in its existing Greater Tom Price operations (100% owned) operations to extend the life of the mine.

Rio says the investment will be in the Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 (WTS2) mine at Tom Price.

Pending final government approvals, construction will start in the first quarter of next year with the first ore from the crusher expected in 2021. Production of high-quality Brockman ore will support the company’s flagship Pilbara Blend, which continues to be a preferred iron ore product for China’s steel mills.

Rio says the investment in the WTS2 mine will help sustain the current workforce at the Greater Tom Price production hub. At its peak, the construction workforce is expected to number more than 1,000 people on top of existing production staff.

The investment follows the $4.8 billion South Flank mine of BHP which is well underway and the $1.6 billion Eliwana mine of Fortescue Metals.

The three miners have also announced smaller add on projects in the past couple of years in the region.
The new Tom Price mine will facilitate mining of existing and new deposits and includes construction of a new crusher as well as a 13-kilometre conveyor.”

Rio says the new conveyor system will help lower greenhouse gas emissions from the mine by 3.5% compared to road haulage and the business is continuing to assess additional options to reduce emissions including renewable energy solutions.

The company said the investment is included in Rio’s existing guidance for Pilbara replacement capital for 2020 to 2022.

As part of the investment, the haul truck fleet at the mine will be fitted with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology to enable autonomous haulage at WTS2 from 2021. The ongoing deployment of autonomous haulage at the company’s Pilbara operations is delivering significant safety benefits as well as enhancing productivity and reducing costs.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said in the statement yesterday: “This significant investment in the Greater Tom Price hub is one of a pipeline of high-quality, low-cost options that will underpin production of our flagship Pilbara Blend product well into the future.”

Rio shares rose 1% to $97, despite a 1.8% fall in iron ore prices on Tuesday to just under $US90 a tonne (for 62% Fe fines).

Glenn Dyer

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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