Rio Tinto, together with joint venture partners Mitsui and Nippon Steel have approved an investment of $1.55 billion to sustain production capacity at two projects which form part of the Robe River Joint Venture in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
The joint venture partners have announced that they plan to invest $967 million to develop the Mesa B, C and H deposits at Robe Valley, and $579 million in developing Deposits C and D at the existing West Angelas operation.
Rio Tinto said that these investments will enable the company to sustain production of the Pilbara Blend (a well-known brand of iron ore) and its Robe Valley lump and fines products, which are highly valued by long-term customers. Subject to government and environmental approvals, construction of both projects is expected to start in 2019 with an estimated 1,200 jobs created during this phase. First ore is also anticipated to be produced from 2021.
In the announcement this morning, Rio Tinto further stated that these investments will provide significant opportunities for local businesses as part of Rio Tinto’s commitment to local procurement and supporting WA businesses.
Once operational, both projects will feature the latest technology with 34 existing haul trucks to be retrofitted with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology, delivering safety and productivity gains to the business.
Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore Chief Executive, Chris Salisbury said 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 Rio Tinto to continue to provide a highly valued product to their long-term customers across Asia.
“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,” Mr Salisbury said. Currently, Rio Tinto owns a 53 per cent holding in the Robe River Joint Venture, Mitsui holds 33 per cent and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation currently hold 14 per cent.