Rio Tinto has approved a major investment in its existing Greater Tom Price operations to help sustain the production capacity of its iron ore business in the Pilbara of Western Australia.
The AU$1 billion investment in the Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 (WTS2) mine will facilitate mining of existing and new deposits and includes construction of a new crusher as well as a 13-kilometre conveyor.
The new conveyor system will help lower greenhouse gas emissions from the mine by 3.5 per cent compared to road haulage and the business is continuing to assess additional options to reduce emissions including renewable energy solutions.
Pending final government approvals, construction will start in the first quarter of 2020 with first ore from the crusher expected in 2021.
As part of the investment, the haul truck fleet at the mine will be fitted with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology to enable autonomous haulage at WTS2 from 2021.
Approximately 50 per cent of the company’s haul truck fleet will be capable of operating autonomously by the end of the year with plans being assessed to expand this in the years ahead.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said “This significant investment in the Greater Tom Price hub is one of a pipeline of high-quality, low-cost options that will underpin production of our flagship Pilbara Blend product well into the future.”
The investment in the WTS2 mine will help sustain the current workforce at Rio Tinto’s Greater Tom Price production hub. Additionally, at its peak, the construction workforce is expected to number more than 1,000 people.
The investment comes at an exciting time for the WA resources sector, given the next wave of billion-dollar projects coming online across the State over the next few years. As of September 2019, WA had resource projects in the pipeline valued at an estimated $108 billion.