PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Mining major Rio Tinto is on track to start iron-ore production from a range of new mines in the Pilbara during 2021.
In its annual report, Rio noted that it was progressing its $2.6-billion Gudai-Darri iron-ore mine, with key construction activities on schedule.
This new production hub would be Rio’s most technologically advanced, incorporating a processing plant and infrastructure including an airport, camp and a 166-km rail line connecting the mine to its existing network.
Production to ramp-up is still expected in early 2022, and once fully commissioned, the initial mine development will have an annual capacity of 43-million tonnes, which would increase the lump to fines ratio in Rio’s Pilbara Blend shipments to 38%.
The company told shareholders that multiple project scopes were under study for Gudai-Darri Phase 2, following board approval for a $44 million prefeasibility study.
Ultimately, the capacity of the hub could be up to 70-million tonnes a year, depending on market conditions.
Rio also completed the studies for a 34 MW solar plant at Gudai-Darri and started construction in 2021. This will consist of about 100 000 solar panels made up of photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity.
On average, the solar plant is expected to supply all of Gudai-Darri’s electricity demand during peak solar power generation times and approximately 65% of the mine’s average electricity demand.
Meanwhile, the company is also investing $1.55-billion with its joint venture partners, Mitsui and Nippon Steel, of which Rio’s 53% share amounts to $820-million, at the Robe Valley and West Angelas operations.
“We have received all required approvals, and procurement and construction activities are progressing well. We anticipate first ore from these projects in 2021,” the miner told shareholders.
Furthermore, the company’s $749-million investment in the Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 mine, part of Greater Tom Price operations, will facilitate mining of new deposits and includes construction of a new crusher and a 13-km conveyor. First ore is also expected in 2021.