Diversified mining company Rio Tinto and its Pilbara joint venture (JV) partners Japanese group Mitsui and steel producer Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal have approved a $1.55-billion investment to sustain production capacity at two iron-ore projects that form part of the Robe River JV, in Western Australia.
Rio Tinto’s 53% share of expenditure will amount to $820-million. The company’s Pilbara operations include an integrated network of 16 iron-ore mines, four independent port terminals, a 1 700 km rail network and related infrastructure.
Earlier this month, the miner reported that the JV partners will invest a combined $967-million, with Rio Tinto’s share $513-million, to develop the Mesa B, C and H deposits at Robe Valley, and $579-million, with Rio Tinto contributing $307-million, in developing Deposits C and D at the existing West Angelas opencast iron-ore operation.
Subject to government and environmental approvals, construction of both projects is expected to start in 2019 with an estimated 1 200 jobs created during this phase. First ore is currently anticipated from 2021. These investments will also provide significant opportunities for local businesses as part of Rio Tinto’s commitment to local procurement and supporting Western Australian businesses.
Once operational, both projects will feature the latest technology with 24 existing haul trucks to be retrofitted with autonomous haulage system technology, delivering safety and productivity gains to the business.
“The development at West Angelas will help sustain production of the Pilbara Blend, the industry’s benchmark premium iron-ore product, while the additional Robe Valley deposits will enable us to continue to provide a highly-valued product to our long-term customers across Asia,” says Rio Tinto iron-ore CEO Chris Salisbury.
He notes that the approval of these two projects highlights the strong pipeline of development options within its portfolio as it remains focused on its value-over-volume strategy.
Rio’s funding commitment for both projects forms part of the company’s existing replacement capital guidance of about $2.7-billion from 2018 to 2020.