PERTH (miningweekly.com) - Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett has welcomed a multibillion-dollar investment by mining giant Rio Tinto to expand its iron-ore operations in the Pilbara region.
Rio would spend $3.7-million to expand its Pilbara production to 353-million tons a year by the first half of 2015, and a further $2-billion over the next four years to expand its port and rail infrastructure, including an additional two berths on the new Cape Lambert jetty and wharf.
Barnett said the state government had conditionally approved the Cape Lambert expansion project in advance of the final investment decision by the Rio board.
“Investment on this scale in key port infrastructure is excellent news for the Pilbara and for Western Australia,” he said.
“It underlines the increasingly significant role that expanded iron-ore production and a dynamic Pilbara are having in shaping the economic and social future of our state.”
The port construction workforce was expected to peak at more than 1 700 employees, with the finished facility adding about 100 full-time jobs to Rio’s operational workforce, the premier said.
“Construction workers will be accommodated on site, and Rio’s more than A$300-million plan to expand the nearby Wickham township will provide housing for the operational workforce,” he added.
“The three-year project, and the expanded residential workforce, will create many additional opportunities, both in the Pilbara and across Western Australia for businesses and employment.
“Resources investment projects like this will sustain the growth of regional communities, offering quality living and help realise the Liberal-National government’s Pilbara Cities vision,” Barnett said.
Rio’s investment decision comes amid fellow miner BHP Billiton’s warnings that the company would not spend its initially planned $80-billion in capital investment over the next five years.
Plans for the $20-billion outer harbour project, also in the Pilbara have been cast in doubt, with BHP expecting to take a final investment decision during the second half of this year.