Rio Tinto has approved the funding of US$667 million in infrastructure and studies for mine expansions as part of its drive to increase the annual capacity of its Pilbara operations to 320 million tonnes by 2012.
Of the package, US$518 million will fund the early commencement of infrastructure works and acquisition of long lead items such as heavy mobile equipment key components of this expansion.
Included in this investment is US$30 million for the advanced development of studies for an additional 8 million tonne per annum capacity for the 52 million tonne per annum Yandicoogina mine in the eastern Pilbara. This will enable orders to be placed on construction camp and long lead components to install the recently purchased second stacker.
The balance of US$149 million is directed to a study of a new iron ore mine on the Western Turner Syncline, near Tom Price, following successful completion of the pre feasibility assessment. The proposed mine would eventually ramp up to 29 million tonne per annum capacity, feeding into existing Tom Price processing plant, with production scheduled to commence in Q4 2010.
Rio said that the US$667 million packages is an important step in the first stage of the conceptual pathway, first set out in November 2007 that could take Rio Tinto’s Pilbara production to 420 million tonne per annum and global production to beyond 600 million tonne per annum in the future.
Tom Albanese CEO of Rio Tinto said that “Against a backdrop of strong demand and constrained supply, it is vital that we progress plans to deliver more iron ore to market faster than before. That requires the strategic early acquisition of long lead items, leveraging off existing industry leadership to reduce time to market of future expansions. We start with an unrivalled position in the Pilbara, with a 1,300-kilometre railway network linking our mines and three port terminals already in place. This positions us well to continue to deliver exceptional growth.”
Sam Walsh CEO of Rio Tinto Iron Ore said that early planning and acquisitions were vital to maintain an aggressive time to market schedule. He said that “The huge number of major resource projects planned or underway in Western Australia has resulted in enormous competition for the supply of key materials and production slots. This ensures we will continue to lead the industry in completing projects in a timely, efficient manner.”
Rio said that the early works involve significant infrastructure for port operations at Cape Lambert, including the development of a heavy off lift wharf facility, relocation of existing gas and power lines to enable commencement of stockyard works and the securing of production slots for dumper castings and slew bearings.
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