PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Diversified miner Rio Tinto has amended a joint venture (JV) agreement with Wright Prospecting, dating back to 1972, to allow for the development of the Rhodes Ridge iron-ore project, some 40 km from Newman.
The Rhodes Ridge project is home to one of the world’s largest and highest quality undeveloped iron-ore deposits, containing 5.8-billion tonnes of high grade mineral resources at an average grade of 62.3% iron. The project’s total resource - 6.7-billion tonnes at an average grade of 61.6% iron - represents approximately one-third of Rio’s existing resource base in the Pilbara.
The project was at the centre of a major legal battle between Wright Prospecting and the Gina Rinehart-owned Hancock Prospecting, but was eventually settled in favour of Wright Prospecting.
Rio, which owns a 50% stake in the project, said on Tuesday that the updates to the binding JV agreement now provides a pathway for the development of the Rhodes Ridge deposits using Rio’s rail, port and power infrastructure.
The two companies have now started an Order of Magnitude study, conducted by Rio, which will consider the development of an operation before the end of the decade with initial plant capacity of up to 40-million tonnes a year, subject to the receipt of relevant approvals.
“Rhodes Ridge contains one of the biggest and best undeveloped iron-ore deposits on the planet with proximate access to existing infrastructure. We are very excited we have been able to strengthen our relationship with Wright Prospecting and have a pathway to bring this high quality resource to market,” Rio Tinto iron ore CEO Simon Trott said.
“With its significant resource base, the Rhodes Ridge project has the potential to underpin production of the Pilbara Blend in the decades ahead.
“We are committed to working closely with the Traditional Owners, the Nyiyaparli and Ngarlawangga People, to ensure sites of significant cultural, environmental, and biodiversity value are protected as part of any future development at Rhodes Ridge. Consistent with our revised approach for new operations, a co-management approach to any future mining activity will be developed in partnership with Traditional Owners.”
A spokesperson for Wright Prospecting said the company was delighted to have reached this important milestone for the Rhodes Ridge project.
“We look forward to partnering with Rio Tinto to develop this asset with a world-leading focus on climate, biodiversity and heritage.”
The JV will use Rio’s existing rail, port and power infrastructure, including the planned instalment of 1 GW of renewable power assets in the Pilbara.