Mining company Rio Tinto has approved a $77m (A$110m) investment to advance the Rhodes Ridge iron ore project in the East Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA).

This investment will be used for the project’s PFS.

For the project, an ‘order of magnitude’ study has already been completed that considered the development of an operation with an initial capacity of up to 40mtpa, pending approvals.

The PFS is slated for completion by the end of 2025. It will be followed by a feasibility study.

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By GlobalData

Located 40km north-west of Newman, the Rhodes Ridge project is owned by a 50-50 joint venture (JV) between Rio Tinto and Wright Prospecting.

This project is estimated to hold 6.8 billion tonnes of mineral resources at an average grade of 61.6% iron. This makes the project one of the largest undeveloped iron ore deposits globally.

Rio Tinto expects to produce first ore from the project’s initial development by the end of 2030.

As part of the ongoing study phases, the miner is looking to invest more than A$400m in exploration work between 2024 and 2028.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore CEO Simon Trott said: “The size and quality of the resource base at Rhodes Ridge has the potential to underpin our iron ore business in the Pilbara for decades to come.

“Longer term, the resource could support a world-class mining hub with a potential capacity of more than 100 million tonnes of high-quality iron ore a year. We are committed to working closely with the traditional owners, the Nyiyaparli and Ngarlawangga People, as we progress this project.”

In 2022, Rio Tinto and Wright agreed to modify their JV to enable the development of the Rhodes Ridge deposits, using Rio Tinto’s rail, port and power infrastructure.