Sunday 8th Dec, 2019

Rio investment to sustain Pilbara blend capacity

Rio Tinto has announced $1.55 billion plans to sustain production capacity at two of its major iron ore operation in WA’s Pilbara region.

Rio on October 1 said it, along with joint venture partners Mitsui and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, would invest to extend the life of two projects which form part of the Robe River Joint Venture.

As 53% stakeholder, Rio’s share of the investment is $820 million.

$967 million of the $1.55 billion investment will develop the Mesa B, C and H deposits at Robe Valley. The remaining $579 million will develop deposits C and D at the existing West Angelas operation.

“The development at West Angelas will help sustain production of the Pilbara Blend, the industry’s benchmark premium iron ore product, while the additional Robe Valley deposits will enable us to continue to provide a highly valued product to our long-term customers across Asia,” Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said.

“The approval of these two projects highlights the strong pipeline of development options within our portfolio as we remain focused on our value-over-volume strategy.”

Rio calls Pilbara Blend the world’s most recognised brand of iron ore.

It also says its Robe Valley lump and fines products are highly valued by long-term customers.

Construction of both projects is expected to start next year with an estimated 1,200 jobs created during this phase, subject to government and environmental approvals.

First ore is currently anticipated from 2021.

Rio says 34 existing haul trucks will be retrofitted with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology to service the new projects.

WA premier Mark McGowan welcomed the investment announcement.

“This is a big announcement for Western Australia and yet another sign that confidence is returning to the state’s economy,” he said.

“I congratulate Rio Tinto on its investment into these projects … it’s pleasing to see the state’s economy recover and now jobs being created, but we acknowledge there is plenty more to be done.”