Rio Tinto has finally given investors an idea of the size and grade of its huge Winu copper-gold deposit in WA’s Eastern Pilbara and reckons it can get a mine underway by 2023.
Rio has been exploring for two years and has given several reports on results from an extensive drilling campaign on what looks like to be a very large low-grade deposit.
On Tuesday Rio revealed its first estimate of the size of the resource at Winu but also that it had located another promising gold-dominant mineralisation nearby.
Rio says Winu is estimated to contain 503 million tonnes of ore averaging 0.4% copper equivalent including a higher-grade component of 188 million tonnes at 0.68% copper equivalent.
It is open at depth and to the north and southeast, meaning there is likely to be more resource to be outlined and proved up. Rio Tinto says its studies found the mineralisation supported the development of a relatively shallow open-pit mine.
Rio Tinto also revealed the discovery of a new zone of gold-dominant mineralisation two kilometres east of Winu – a prospect called Ngapakarra – as well as a number of other encouraging drilling results in close proximity to the maiden Winu resource.
Rio said these provided “further encouragement” about the potential for the development of multiple ore bodies within one system.
Stephen McIntosh, Rio’s head of growth and innovation, said the company was targeting first production in 2023 and was planning a “small-scale, start-up” operation that focused on Winu’s higher-grade core.
“We are basically contemplating a small starter pit, concentrating on the higher grades, shallower mineralisation, very much doing this in a more agile and more innovative approach,” he said. “We are very pleased to be able to do this and do it quickly.”
“The additional exploration results reported today support our view that there is potential to develop the Paterson region into a large-scale operation over time through both our 100% owned tenements and joint ventures1. We’ve so far carried out exploration activity in just 2% of our tenements in the region and we’re building on this discovery at Winu with further encouraging results.”
Rio shares rose 1.18% to $104.11.