Diversified miner Rio Tinto has agreed to amend a nearly 50-year-old joint venture (JV) agreement with Wright Prospecting to develop the Rhodes Ridge iron-ore project in East Pilbara, Western Australia.

The project has a total resource of 6.7 billion tonnes, making it one of the world’s largest and highest-quality undeveloped iron ore deposits.

Rio Tinto and Wright Prospecting have now reached a binding JV agreement to update an existing agreement signed in 1972.

The amended agreement will see the development of the Rhodes Ridge deposits utilising Rio Tinto’s port, rail, and power infrastructure.

This project is planned to start production by the end of 2030, with an initial plant capacity estimated at up to 40Mtpa.

Rio Tinto iron ore CEO Simon Trott said: “With its significant resource base, the Rhodes Ridge project has the potential to underpin the production of the Pilbara Blend in the decades ahead.

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“We are committed to working closely with the traditional owners, the Nyiyaparli and Ngarlawangga People, to ensure sites of significant cultural, environmental, and biodiversity value are protected as part of any future development at Rhodes Ridge.

“Consistent with our revised approach for new operations, a co-management approach to any future mining activity will be developed in partnership with Traditional Owners.”

The project is estimated to contain 5.8 billion tonnes of high-grade Mineral Resources at an average grade of 62.3% Fe.

A resource drilling programme is being carried out to support future studies for the iron ore project.