This investment will increase annual infrastructure capacity to 283 mt during 2013.
Further investments will be required to achieve production of 283 mtpa, such as mine and housing expansions, and approval of these is anticipated within the next 12 months.
Rio Tinto has also approved a final feasibility study into increasing Pilbara production capacity to 333 mtpa. Since July 2010, Rio Tinto has announced US$6.0B (Rio Tinto share US$3.9B) of new investment in its world class Pilbara operations with the majority being spent on expansion projects.
Rio Tinto chief executive, Iron ore and Australia, Sam Walsh said: “The single best creator of value for Rio Tinto shareholders is to move more Rio Tinto tonnes through an expanded Cape Lambert. Today we have committed further funds to doing just that.
“Our plan is to boost our capacity by more than 50 per cent to 333 mtpa, with built-in potential to grow still further. This is the largest mining project ever undertaken in Australia and highlights the quality of our growth options. It confirms Rio Tinto’s strength as Australia’s leading long-term supplier of iron ore, our unrivalled reputation for delivering major projects to plan and our confidence in the long-term outlook for iron ore demand.
“Major contracts have been awarded and the procurement of long lead items commenced for what will ultimately be an additional 1.8 kilometre jetty and four-berth wharf at Cape Lambert. The wharf and jetty will support a two-stage increase in capacity of approximately 50 mtpa each, and are designed to enable further potential growth beyond 333 mtpa.”
The US$3.1B investment announced will support port and rail infrastructure works around Cape Lambert, including a two-berth wharf, new stockyard, car dumper, two stackers and reclaimers, rail marshalling yards and six new heavy-haul train units.
The mine developments required to take advantage of this increase in infrastructure capacity are currently being studied. Options identified for review include further expansions to the recently opened Brockman 4 and Western Turner Syncline mines, plus further developments of the Nammuldi mine.
These mines are all fully owned by Rio Tinto in the western Pilbara.
The Board is expected to make a final investment decision on these mine developments in 2011.
The construction of the Cape Lambert port expansion, investment in additional rail and mine capacity are subject to the finalisation of a number of State Agreement variations, as well as a number of Government and other approvals.