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Rio Tinto investing $10bn/y in capex, spotlight on Simandou

Simandou stands out as the world’s biggest untapped high-grade iron-ore deposit, and if approved, promises to be the most extensive greenfield integrated mine and infrastructure investment across the African continent.

Simandou stands out as the world’s biggest untapped high-grade iron-ore deposit, and if approved, promises to be the most extensive greenfield integrated mine and infrastructure investment across the African continent.

6th December 2023

By: Mariaan Webb

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

     

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Diversified major Rio Tinto has earmarked about $10-billion a year in capital investments from 2024 to 2026, with the cornerstone of its investment strategy over the next three years being its equity share of the Simandou iron-ore project, in Guinea.

The initial capital allocation for Rio Tinto’s share in developing the Simfer mine and co-developed rail and port infrastructure project at Simandou amounts to $6.2-billion, the Sydney- and London-listed company said on Tuesday.

Simandou stands out as the world’s biggest untapped high-grade iron-ore deposit, and if approved, promises to be the most extensive greenfield integrated mine and infrastructure investment across the African continent.

Rio Tinto’s involvement in Simandou revolves around its ownership of two of the four mining blocks, forming part of the Simfer joint venture (JV) alongside China’s Chalco Iron Ore Holdings (CIOH) and the Guinea government. Rio Tinto has a 53% stake, while CIOH holds the balance.

The Simfer JV’s mine concession holds an estimated 2.8-billion-tonne mineral resource, of which 1.5-billion tonnes were converted to ore reserves that support a mine life of 26 years, with an average grade of 65.3%.

First production from the Simfer mine is expected in 2025, ramping up over 30 months, Rio Tinto said.

Simfer will own, develop and operate a 60-million-tonne-a-year mine in blocks 3 and 4 of the Simandou project and WCS is developing blocks 1 and 2.

The costs of the codeveloped infrastructure capacity, which will allow for the export of up to 120-million tonnes a year of mine iron-ore by Simfer and WCS from their respective Simandou concessions, will be shared equally between the entities.

The Simandou project has faced its share of challenges, grappling with prolonged negotiations stemming from its intricate ownership structure. Legal disputes, shifts in Ginea’s political landscape, and construction complexities have contributed to delays in the project’s progression.

Rio Tinto’s investment in Simandou comes as the major’s spend starts winding down at its Oyu Tolgoi copper mine, in Mongolia. Oyu Tolgoi is ramping up production and is set to deliver 500 000 t/y of copper from 2028 to 2036. By 2030, it will be the world's fourth-biggest copper mine.

The remainder of the group’s investment focus over the next three years will be on copper and lithium projects, some of which are yet to be approved.

In 2023, Rio Tinto spent $7-billion on capital expenditure (capex), of which $1-billion was growth capex. In the next three years, its growth capex estimate is $3-billion a year.

“We strongly believe we are well positioned in an opportunity-rich world," said CEO Jakob Stausholm.

"There has never been greater demand for what we do, from mining to processing, and the work we are doing today is creating a stronger Rio Tinto for years to come."

Stausholm noted that Rio Tinto was making progress in shaping its portfolio for the future, through entering new markets like recycled aluminium in North America, developments in technology and one of the most exciting exploration pipelines the group has had for many years.

The company earlier this week reported that it had completed the formation of the Matalco JV, giving it a leading position in the growing North American recycled aluminium market.

 

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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