Rio Tinto plans to raise output by 16% at the Gudai-Darri mine, its newest iron ore mine in Western Australia, part of its plan to bring the company back to record production levels by 2025.
The Anglo-Australian mining giant is the biggest iron ore producer in the world, and will increase production at the Pilbara region mine by seven million tonnes (mt) to 50mt a year at a cost of $70m.
The improvements that will lead to increased production involve greater use of autonomous technology in drills, rail lines and trucks.
In 2024, iron ore shipments from Pilbara are expected to be 323–338mt. If 338mt is achieved, Rio would be brought into line with its 2018 record.
Rio’s iron ore division chief, Simon Trott, said: “In the next ten years, globally, just as many people are going to urbanise as in the last decade. The mine developments that are needed to sustain that scale are enormous. And so, if you look forward over the next 20 years, we are going to use more iron ore than we have used in the last 30.”
First ore at Gudai-Darri was achieved in 2022 and Rio described it as its “most technologically advanced mine”. The production increase at Gudia-Darri has helped Rio to achieve a 1.2% rise in its third-quarter iron ore shipments. It shipped 83.9mt of iron ore from Pilbara in the third quarter, compared with 82.9m in the same quarter the year before.
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The announcement comes after the mining giant reduced its production estimates for iron ore mining in Canada due to operational failures.
Rio will next shift its focus to developing Australia’s biggest iron ore deposit at Rhodes Ridge, which contains 6.8 billion tonnes of 61.6% iron ore.