Rio Tinto says it will invest $749 million in the Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 (WTS2) mine at its Greater Tom Price operations, in the Pilbara of Western Australia, facilitating mining of existing and new deposits and including construction of a new crusher as well as a 13 km conveyor.
In addition to this, the haul truck fleet at the mine will be fitted with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology.
This investment will help sustain the production capacity of its world-class iron ore business, it said.
The new conveyor system at WTS2 will help lower greenhouse gas emissions from the mine by 3.5% compared with road haulage and the business is continuing to assess additional options to reduce emissions, including renewable energy solutions, it said.
Pending final government approvals, construction will start in the March quarter of 2020 with first ore from the crusher expected in 2021. Production of high-quality Brockman ore will support the company’s flagship Pilbara Blend, which continues to be the preferred base load product for China’s steel mills, Rio said.
The project is expected to deliver an attractive internal rate of return with a capital intensity of about $25/t of production capacity.
As part of the investment, the haul truck fleet at the mine will be fitted with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology to enable autonomous haulage at WTS2 from 2021.
Rio said: “The ongoing deployment of autonomous haulage at the company’s Pilbara operations is delivering significant safety benefits as well as enhancing productivity and reducing costs.”
Approximately 50% of the company’s haul truck fleet will be capable of operating autonomously by the end of the year with plans being assessed to expand this in the years ahead.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Chris Salisbury, said: “Our iron ore business continues to deliver industry-leading margins as we drive performance from our mines. This significant investment in the Greater Tom Price hub is one of a pipeline of high-quality, low-cost options that will underpin production of our flagship Pilbara Blend product well into the future.”
The investment in the WTS2 mine will help sustain the current workforce at Rio Tinto’s Greater Tom Price production hub. Additionally, at its peak, the construction workforce is expected to number more than 1,000 people.