Rio Tinto has approved a $1.6bn investment for the development of the Hope Downs 4 iron ore project in Western Australia.

The open-cut mine, located in south-eastern Pilbara, will have an annual capacity of 15 million tons of high-quality iron ore, with first production anticipated in 2013.

The company will also commit an additional $425m to fully cover the capital cost of the rail, rolling stock and power infrastructure required for the development.

Construction of the mine will begin in early 2011 after obtaining regulatory approvals.