Rio Tinto and its Japanese joint venture partners will invest $1.55bn to maintain production capacity at two projects in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA).
The projects form part of the Robe River joint venture (JV), in which Rio Tinto holds a 53% stake, while Mitsui (33%) and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal (14%) hold the remaining interest.
Rio Tinto’s total contribution to the investment programme stands at $820m.
The investment includes $967m for the development of the Mesa B, C and H deposits at Robe Valley, and $579m towards the development of Deposits C and D at the existing West Angelas operation.
It will be used to maintain production of Rio Tinto’s Pilbara Blend, as well as its Robe Valley lump and fines products.
The JV partners expect to begin construction of both projects next year and achieve first ore in 2021.
During the construction phase, employment will be provided to 1,200 workers.
Rio Tinto 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 us to continue to provide a highly valued product to our 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.”
Once the projects are brought on stream, they will have 34 haul trucks retrofitted with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology, which is a fleet management system for mines.