Rio Tinto has announced plans to invest $1.9bn to expand the Amrun bauxite project on the Cape York Peninsula in north Queensland, Australia.

As part of the expansion, the company will construct a bauxite mine and associated processing and port facilities.

Initially, Rio Tinto expects to produce 2.8 million tonnes of bauxite a year and replace the output from the depleting East Weipa mine.

The company aims to start production in 2019 and ramp this up to full capacity by the end of the same year.

Rio Tinto said that the project’s design provides future expansion of production to 50 million tonnes per year.

During 2017 and 2018, the company plans to make major investments in the Amrun project, which was previously known as South of Embley.

Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh said: "Amrun is one of the highest quality bauxite projects in the world. It is a tier one asset that will deliver significant benefits to all our stakeholders.

"The award of the wellhead platform contract is a significant step towards first oil for the Ophir development."

"We are establishing Cape York bauxite as the product of choice for the Chinese seaborne market with consistent quality, security of supply and strong technical marketing support."

The project was formerly known as South of Embley and will enable the company meet growing bauxite demand from China. It is expected to provide work for around 1,100 people at its peak.

The Amrun project is located 40km south of Rio Tinto’s existing East Weipa and Andoom mines on the Cape York Peninsula.

Rio Tinto holds 1.49 billion tonnes of bauxite reserves in addition to 1.91 billion tonnes of resources in the Cape York region.

Rio Tinto’s South of Embley bauxite mine and port development was approved by the Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke in May 2013.

Image: Photo: Amrun bauxite project was formerly known as South of Embley. Copyright © 2014 Rio Tinto.