Rio Tinto to decide by 2013 on doubling Canadian iron-ore output

16th August 2011 By: Matthew Hill

TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Multinational miner Rio Tinto will decide in 2013 on a project to double the production at its Canadian iron-ore operations from 23-million to 50-million tons yearly by around 2015, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

While the company is still preparing indicative cost estimates, Rio Tinto Iron Ore Company of Canada's (IOC's) director of external relations Heather Bruce-Veitch said it would cost "billions of dollars".

"The project will go through three detailed study phases, and formal approval will occur after the final feasibility study, scheduled from 2013," she said in reply to emailed questions.

CBC News reported earlier that Rio Tinto's IOC was considering doubling production, quoting president of international operations in iron-ore Alan Davies.

"We are going to study that over the course of the coming year and, hopefully, at the back end of 2015 or so, we will be bringing on more tonnage,” Davies was cited as saying.

The company announced in May last year a C$435-million project that will lift output by four-million tons to 22-million tons a year of concentrate by 2012.

CBC News said that if the project to double capacity proved viable, IOC will need to build a new concentrator and rail lines, without saying how much it might cost.

According to Bruce-Veitch, the additional output would go to Asian customers.

"India and China are the growth markets," she told Mining Weekly Online.

UK- and Australia-listed Rio Tinto owns 58.7% of IOC, with Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation holding 26.2% and Labrador Iron Ore Royalty Income Fund owning the remaining 15.1% stake.

The company owns iron-ore mines in Labrador and Quebec, as well as railway lines and a port facility at Sept Isles.

In May, the world’s biggest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal, launched a C$2.1-billion project to increase iron-ore production from its Quebec operations by 71%, to 24-million tons by 2013.

Last month, New Millennium Iron CEO Dean Journeaux forecast that companies in the Labrador Trough might reach a production rate of up to 150-million tons yearly over the next 10 to 15 years.

The bulk of Rio Tinto’s iron-ore operations are in Australia’s Pilbara region.