Tag Archives: Gudai-Darri

Rio Tinto details technology leaps at Gudai-Darri upon official opening

A week after delivering first ore, Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine, in Western Australia, has officially been opened, marking a major milestone for the company’s most technologically advanced mine.

Pilbara Traditional Owners, the Banjima People, and Western Australia’s Minister for Mines and Petroleum; Energy, Bill Johnston MLA, today joined Rio Tinto employees as well as valued partners and suppliers to celebrate the official opening.

Since development commenced in April 2019, more than 14 million workhours have culminated in the delivery of Rio Tinto’s 17th and most technologically advanced iron ore mine in the Pilbara. Development of the mine supported more than 3,000 jobs during the construction and design phase with the operation requiring around 600 permanent roles.

With an expected life of more than 40 years and an annual capacity of 43 Mt, Gudai-Darri will underpin future production of Rio Tinto’s Pilbara Blend™ product. It’s expected to increase iron ore production volumes and improve product mix from the Pilbara from the second half of this year, the company says. The mine is expected to reach capacity in 2023.

To optimise mine safety and drive productivity, Gudai-Darri features an unprecedented deployment of technology, much of it industry-leading. This includes the use of robotics for the ore sampling laboratory as well as for distribution of parts in the new workshop.

This goes from autonomous trucks, trains and drills, standard across many Rio Tinto mines in the Pilbara, to a full digital replica of the processing plant which allows teams to monitor and respond to data collected from the plant. The same digital asset data is used to provide a feature rich, interactive 3D environment for virtual reality training. These autonomous assets are monitored remotely from Rio Tinto’s Operations Centre 1,500 km away in Perth.

The technology spread includes 23 Caterpillar 793F autonomous haul trucks and three Caterpillar MD6310 autonomous drills. The trucks, in this case, implement real-time ore tracking using sensors to provide live dig face progression, while data-informed modelling from the drills helps to build more accurate assessments of existing ground conditions and improve safety. In collaboration with Caterpillar, Rio Tinto is advancing the development of zero-emissions autonomous haul trucks. Once development is complete, it is anticipated the world’s first operational deployment of Caterpillar 793 zero-emissions autonomous haul trucks will be at Gudai-Darri.

Gudai-Darri also hosts the world’s first autonomous water carts.

The new vehicles, developed in partnership with Caterpillar, are primarily used for dust suppression on site, enhancing productivity by enabling mine operations to digitally track water consumption and reduce waste. The vehicle’s intelligent on-board system detects dry and dusty conditions on site, triggering the application of water to roads to keep them in good condition.

And, of course, it has autonomous trains under its AutoHaul™ system, which has been fully operational since June 2019.

The company has also invested in what it says is its first “rotable bucketwheel reclaimer”.

It explained: “Traditionally reclaimer maintenance requires a prolonged shutdown while several components are removed. This patented world first will enable the entire bucket wheel module to be changed out for maintenance, improving safety and efficiency.”

With the help of Scott Automation, the company has also introduced a robotic ore sampling lab on site, while its heavy mobile equipment warehouse is the home to four automatic guided vehicles.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Simon Trott, said: “We’ve worked closely with both the Banjima and Yindjibarndi People through the planning and development stages of Gudai-Darri and we look forward to partnering with them into the future to ensure the project achieves significant social and economic benefits.

“Gudai-Darri represents a step-change in the deployment of automation and technology within our iron ore business and a fantastic demonstration of the talent, ingenuity and capability that exists in Western Australia, a region which is now known globally for its technical excellence and innovation. Gudai-Darri’s combination of data and analytics, machine learning and automation, will make this mine safer and more productive.

“Gudai-Darri is our first greenfield mine in the Pilbara in more than a decade and a multi-billion-dollar investment in the State of Western Australia that will operate for decades to come.”

Western Australia’s Minister for Mines and Petroleum; Energy, Bill Johnston MLA, said: “I’m impressed by Rio Tinto’s innovation and sustainability; this is a prototype of the mine of the future. Once the new solar farm (a 34 MW farm consisting of about 83,000 panels) is complete it will be able to power one-third of Gudai-Darri’s operational needs with renewable energy.”

A total of A$3.2 billion ($2.2 billion) in goods and services were sourced within Western Australia during the construction phase of the Gudai-Darri Project with contracts valued at A$1.5 billion awarded directly to Western Australia-registered businesses such as NRW, Primero, DTMT Construction Company, Southern Cross Electrical Engineering and Monadelphous Engineering Associates.

This includes over A$100 million awarded directly to local Aboriginal businesses including White Springs, Lorrex Contracting, Hicks Civil & Mining, Brida, Karijini Development, Yurala Contracting Services, and Karlka FenceWright WA.

Rio delivers first ore from its most technologically advanced iron ore mine, Gudai-Darri

Rio Tinto has delivered first ore from the Gudai-Darri iron ore mine as the company brings online its first greenfield mine in the Pilbara, Western Australia, in more than a decade.

Gudai-Darri, which features autonomous trucks, trains and drills, as well as the world’s first autonomous water trucks, will help underpin future production of the company’s flagship Pilbara Blend™ product, Rio says.

The first autonomous AutoHaul™ trains loaded with ore from Gudai-Darri’s process plant have travelled the new 166-km rail line that connects to Rio Tinto’s existing rail and port infrastructure. Production from the mine will continue to ramp up through the remainder of this year and is expected to reach full capacity during 2023.

Since ground was broken in April 2019, more than 14 million workhours have resulted in the movement of over 20 million cu.m of earth, batching and placement of 35,000 cu.m of concrete and the installation of 10,000 t of steel. The development of Gudai-Darri supported more than 3,000 jobs during the construction and design phase, with the mine set to support around 600 ongoing permanent roles.

With an expected life of more than 40 years and an annual capacity of 43 Mt, Gudai-Darri will underpin future production of Pilbara Blend product, the company says. A feasibility study to support an expansion of this new hub is also progressing.

The mine’s commissioning and ramp-up is expected to increase Rio Tinto’s iron ore production volumes and improve product mix from the Pilbara in the second half of this year. Full-year shipments guidance for 2022 remains at 320-335 Mt (100% basis) subject to risks around the ramp up of new mines, weather and management of cultural heritage.

The capital cost for the mine is estimated to be $3.1 billion. As disclosed in February, the company’s replacement projects in the Pilbara, including Gudai-Darri, were subject to potential capital increases of approximately 15% due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, including labour access and supply chain quality issues. Group capital expenditure guidance for 2022 is unchanged at around $8 billion.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Simon Trott, said: “The commissioning of Gudai-Darri represents the successful delivery of our first greenfield mine in over a decade, helping to support increased output of Pilbara Blend, our flagship product. It sets a new standard for Rio Tinto mine developments through its deployment of technology and innovation to enhance productivity and improve safety.

“I’d like to acknowledge the support of the Traditional Owners, the Banjima People, on whose country Gudai-Darri is situated. We have worked closely with the Banjima People to progress this project and we look forward to continuing to actively partner with them into the future.”

Rio Tinto Chief Technical Officer, Mark Davies, said: “The safe and successful delivery of Gudai-Darri, in the midst of a global pandemic, is testament to the resilience and hard work of thousands of Rio Tinto employees and contractors, including a range of local Western Australian suppliers, as well as Pilbara Aboriginal businesses.

“In building this new hub we have brought together the best of our innovations, including autonomous trucks, trains and drills, as well as the world’s first autonomous water trucks, to make Gudai-Darri our most technologically advanced iron ore mine.

“This suite of autonomous assets complements the planned deployment of other leading-edge technologies including a robotic ore sampling laboratory, field mobility devices for all personnel and a digital asset of the fixed plant, which, together with data analytics, will make Gudai Darri safer and more productive.”

Helping support Rio Tinto’s carbon emission reduction targets, Gudai-Darri will be powered by a 34 MW solar farm that is expected to supply about a third of the mine’s average electricity demand once construction is complete in August.

Together with a new lithium-ion battery energy storage system in Tom Price, the solar plant is estimated to reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by about 90,000 t compared with conventional gas powered generation, equivalent to taking about 28,000 cars off the road.

Rio Tinto, WesTrac and Caterpillar deploy tele-remote dozing system at iron ore ops

Rio Tinto, WesTrac and Caterpillar have embarked on a project to deploy a new tele-remote dozing system (TDS) at Rio’s iron ore operations in Western Australia that, they say, is wholly focused on operator safety.

Utilising Cat MineStar Command for Dozing and a dedicated operator control centre, Rio Tinto’s solution allows for non-line of sight operation of dozers working in high-risk areas.

Rio Tinto Superintendent Process and Technical, Michelle Woolcock, says the overarching brief was to effectively manage potential safety risks associated with dozers working in areas that were more susceptible to risk.

“The brief was to take the operator out of the line of fire,” Woolcock said. “In particular, the focus was to reduce the risk of operators being in machines that faced a risk of slipping or stability issues, for example when they were working on stockpiles or close to steep walls.”

There are multiple layers of technology and control options involved in the solution, depending on client and site-specific requirements.

Caterpillar Senior Service Engineer, Steve Dougherty, explained: “To start, you need the base remote-control kit. There are different kits available for each machine size. If you wanted to do some basic remote-control work, there’s a kit that includes a console receiver, which is a dedicated wireless link installed on top of the cab.

“There’s a Remote Control Module (RCM) that gets installed under the seat and interfaces with all the base machine functions, and the associated wiring and Wi-Fi network to allow the various parts to communicate.”

The solution includes options for controlling machines within visual range, consisting of an over-the-shoulder console and a dedicated network, which Dougherty says is typically suited to operators needing to perform temporary or one-off, high-risk applications.

“You could run that way all day if you wanted to, but the units are set up with dead-man switches so are really designed for things like machine recovery,” he explained.

“For more long-term applications, like the one that Rio Tinto is rolling out, we set up an operator station which looks very much like a simulator with all the in-cab controls replicated. It can still be run as a line-of-sight solution, but more typically customers opt for the vision kit, which adds four cameras on board the dozer and utilises a customer-supplied Wi-Fi network to relay all of that machine information and the video feeds to the operator station, wherever it may be located.”

While Dougherty says the remote station solution can allow a single operator to control up to five machines at one time in some circumstances, such as strip mining operations, Rio Tinto’s solution is purely designed to move operators into a safer, more comfortable operating environment.

Rio Tinto Superintendent Operational Readiness, Jamie Webster, says the initial rollout of the TDS at the Cape Lambert Port facility, north east of Karratha, is focused on high-risk operations on coarse ore stockpiles with steep gradients and “live” areas where ore is fed into underground tunnels.

“Safety is the number one priority at all Rio Tinto sites and for all employees,” Webster says.

“The message at all levels is that safety always comes first. Every single person on site, from leaders to cleaners, are empowered to stop if they ever feel unsafe and we always look at ways to improve processes so that no one is in harm’s way.”

According to Webster, the TDS project is one such area where process improvements were identified to reduce risk.

“These dozers are operating in quite a tight area around lots of fixed assets,” he explained. “That means work is quite intricate and the real benefits will be realised in pushing ore from the stockpiles into the live zones.

“The dozers are working at the top of a large stockpile and if a dozer slips it could go down a bank, or if it’s working while the apron feeder is operating, the ground could fall away from underneath it. Obviously, we already have processes in place and technology to mitigate such risks, but putting the operators into a station away from the danger zones eliminates any potential risk to them being harmed, no matter how small that risk might be.”

While removing operators from high-risk zones is driving the rollout of the solution, Woolcock says it does not mean removing operators from site.

She says remote operators still need to be “close to the action” and have detailed site knowledge to function most effectively and efficiently. “As much as ‘non-line-of-sight’ operation sounds like it could be carried out from anywhere, the reality is that these operators are multi-tasking in their roles,” she says.

“It will depend on the state of the coarse ore stockpile and what’s coming in and going out. They need to be able to visually inspect and determine what needs to be done. They might spend an hour or two dozing then move on to other tasks while they wait for the stockpiles to be replenished.

“When you need dozer operators, you typically need all hands on deck, and when you don’t need them, if they’re sitting in a control centre hundreds of kilometres away, it’s far more difficult to stay on top of other tasks they might carry out on site.”

Woolcock and Webster admit there was some resistance among the first operators to be trained in TDS, but as they became more familiar with the solution, the operators embraced it.

“A lot of operators quite literally work the dozers through their seats,” Webster says. “They might have worked for decades and are accustomed to feeling the movement. So they’re having to relearn how to drive the dozer without that sense of movement, and they’re relying entirely on the visual feed of information rather than the other senses from being in the mobile rig.”

According to Woolcock, the key to operator acceptance has been allowing them time to use the system and understand the difference the cutting-edge technology will make.

“With the on-the-job trainers (OJTs), they were excited initially to have the chance to learn something novel,” Woolcock says.

“Once the training commenced, a lot of them got quite downhearted because as experienced dozer operators, they had the sense they were going right back to relearning all the knowledge they’d built up over years of manual operation. So they felt like they were starting the first day of school again.

“But it was very much a case of them moving through the classic stages of learning until they had a feel for it and got to that level of conscious competence.

“The transition from resistance to acceptance to championing the new way of working was amazing and I think it was because the OJTs realised they were pioneering new technology.”

Woolcock says two or three operators across each of the Cape Lambert work crews will ultimately be trained in the TDS operations, while the technology is being progressively rolled out across other Rio Tinto sites.

For WesTrac Technology General Manager, Alister MacPherson, the progressive rollout has necessitated a range of adjustments within the mining technology team and rollout methodologies. With multiple deployments, WesTrac aims to identify the repeatable parts of the process and ensure adequate resourcing to fulfil the relevant roles and responsibilities.

“We want as much as possible to roll this out as a programme of work rather than a series of individual projects,” MacPherson says.

“That means firstly ensuring we have completed the right training in areas including product management, project engineering and technical support, then developing a collaborative approach between WesTrac and Rio Tinto to ensure the program is rolled out smoothly.”

WesTrac Product Manager – Mining Technology, Gary Scott, says the Cape Lambert project provided an ideal proving ground to develop the rollout strategies that can be extended to other sites.

“Every site and situation is obviously going to have some unique aspects to it, but there is a set of core requirements that will apply across all implementations,” Scott said.

“It starts with an audit on the available machines to understand the current capabilities, then we can spec up the technology requirements to be fitted to those machines.

“Across an operation like Rio Tinto’s, we’d typically expect to see a fair bit of consistency but there may still be differences based on the age of the site and the asset maintenance and replacement schedules.

“Then when we know what has to be done, we can carry out the installation of the various control modules, the remote operator station and ensure the hardware and software is all communicating. It’s quite straightforward as far as system implementations go, but the complexities come with the detail of configuration and constraint management.”

“The system readily interacts with other Cat control systems including MineStar Terrain, so we can set up working parameters including geofencing and avoidance zones. Essentially, those things are the same whether a dozer is being controlled from in the cab or a remote operating station.”

Those operating parameters and control solutions will be vital as the TDS technology is rolled out across Rio Tinto’s mine sites, including its new Gudai-Darri mine. When production commences this year, the site will be one of the most technologically advanced mines in the world and will feature a large fleet of autonomous haul trucks, water carts and drill rigs. In such environments, any manually controlled equipment, whether in-cab or remotely operated, must be equipped to interact with autonomous machines.

While every aspect of the TDS technology and the way it interacts with other equipment is safety focused, Webster expects that in time the operations will see productivity gains too.

“There’s still a lot to understand about how we can be the most productive with this system,” he says.

“Initially, we’re probably going to be counterproductive compared to in-cab operation, but as we’re learning and developing, and as everyone becomes more familiar with the new way of operating, the added comfort and control will lead to operators being even more productive than we are today.”

NRW Holdings to deliver solar power solution for Rio’s Gudai Darri

NRW Holdings has secured two new contracts from Rio Tinto, one of which will see it enter the renewable energy fold with an agreement to deliver a 34 MW solar photovoltaic system at the Gudai Darri mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

This contract is part of Rio Tinto’s commitment to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations with a stated target to reach net zero emissions by 2050, NRW said, adding that the contract value is approximately A$60 million ($44 million).

The scope of work for the solar farm includes design, procurement, construction, testing and commissioning of all equipment including a 33 kV substation to be integrated into the overall Rio Tinto Iron Ore infrastructure, including remote control and monitoring via the Rio Tinto Iron Ore Remote Operation Centre.

The solar farm will be connected to the Rio Tinto grid at the Gudai Darri Central Substation via a 6-km long overhead powerline and fibre-optic link, which is not included in the NRW scope.

Design and procurement will commence immediately followed by commencement of construction in August 2021. Construction and commissioning are scheduled for completion in early 2022, it said.

Jules Pemberton, NRW’s Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, said: “Securing this work recognises the broader delivery capability of the business and NRW’s long-standing experience of delivering projects for Rio Tinto in the Pilbara. Renewable energy represents an increasing opportunity for the group in particular captive projects like this where the energy output is integrated to the client’s network.”

Alongside this announcement, NRW said it had been awarded the Stage 3 Expansion Works at the Nammuldi Waste Fines Storage (WFSF) facility. The works to be undertaken for this project are the Stage 3 expansion to the existing WFSF for Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd, a Rio subsidiary that manages the joint venture Nammuldi operation (53% owned by Rio, 33% owned by Mitsui Iron Ore Development, 10.5% owned by Nippon Steel Australia and 3.5% owned by Sumitomo Metal Australia), at the Nammuldi Below Water Table (NBWT) project.

The site is around 60 km northwest of Tom Price, with the WFSF Stage 3 expansion consisting of raising the existing earth fill embankment by a further 6 m using the downstream method with associated earthworks along with mechanical upgrades to water management structures, waste fines deposition lines and pond decant infrastructure.

The expansion works to be undertaken will achieve the ultimate limit currently permitted for the WFSF, NRW said.

Construction works will start in mid-August 2021 with all works complete in June 2022. A work force of about 75 personnel will be engaged on the project which has a contract value of circa-A$26.5 million.

Monadelphous Group banks engineering work with BHP, Rio and Codelco

Monadelphous Group Ltd has secured several new construction and maintenance contracts in the resources sector totalling around A$215 million ($163 million).

Included within this slate of new work is a contract for smelter campaign maintenance works at the BHP owned Olympic Dam copper mine in South Australia. Monadelphous said work will commence immediately and is expected to be completed in December 2021.

Monadelphous has also been awarded a two-year extension to its existing maintenance services contract at Olympic Dam. The contract scope includes civil, structural, mechanical, building maintenance and electrical services, as well as the addition of underground rail maintenance services.

In the iron ore sector in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, Monadelphous has been awarded several contracts, including several sustaining capital contracts under its panel agreements with BHP and Rio Tinto; and a contract with Rio for the provision of construction and support services associated with the Gudai-Darri iron ore project, with work expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

In Chile, the company’s maintenance and construction services business, Buildtek, has secured a number of new contracts, including a three-year contract with Codelco for the operations and maintenance of water infrastructure at the Chuquicamata underground mine in Calama. Buildtek has been providing these services on this site since 2018.

In addition, the engineering company has secured two new contracts with Codelco for maintenance activities associated with the concentrator plant at El Teniente mine in Rancagua; and a contract with BHP Minera Escondida for the construction of modularised pump stations and associated infrastructure of the Escondida copper mine in Coloso.

Finally, Monadelphous, in collaboration with global heavy lifting services company Fagioli, has secured a contract with NMT International (Australia) to deliver specialist heavy lifting and haulage services at the Iron Bridge magnetite project, a joint venture between Fortescue Metals Group subsidiary FMG Magnetite Pty Ltd and Formosa Steel IB. The strategic collaboration with Fagioli enables Monadelphous’ specialist Heavy Lift business to increase capacity and broaden capability for the Australian resources and energy markets, it said.

Immersive to supply simulators, solutions for Rio’s Gudai-Darri automation

Rio Tinto has enlisted the help of Immersive Technologies and its equipment simulators to further its autonomous haulage footprint at the new Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in Western Australia.

The mine, which will operate Caterpillar autonomous trucks equipped with Cat MineStar™ Command for Hauling system, will use simulation-based training solutions from Immersive Technologies to address the workforce development challenges within autonomous haulage operations with a focus on improving the safety and efficiency of their operator workforce, Immersive said.

Rio has used such systems from Immersive for over 17 years, understanding the value of investing in simulators for operator capability development, including equipment productivity and reliability initiatives, Immersive said.

Rio Tinto Vice President, Human Resources, Scott Browne, said: “This is an important component of our comprehensive training program for AHS, which includes supporting new team members as well as upskilling existing employees. Gudai-Darri will be one of the world’s most technologically advanced mines. Preparations are well under way to ensure its workforce is ready to take on the high-tech jobs on offer.”

Focused on capability development in the usage of the autonomous system, Rio Tinto partnered with Immersive Technologies to provide a solution to support the mine-readiness schedule and objectives, Immersive said. Specific training products include a platform which simulates a Cat 6060 excavator, Cat D10T dozer and Cat 18M grader. All simulator modules are equipped with an autonomous system panel and provide a safe and effective environment for training by allowing learners to operate their equipment while interacting with the autonomous trucks and managing their work areas as required, the company added.

The simulator solution is complimented by machine pre-start inspection software, which provides a detailed visualisation of equipment components, including autonomous components fitted to machines. Additionally, a ‘Virtual Classroom’ product hosts complex autonomous procedures that immerses learners in a safe and repeatable virtual environment which enables the development of deep knowledge and muscle memory of operational procedures, Immersive said.

Greg Karadjian, Regional Vice President Australia of Immersive, said: “Immersive Technologies is at the forefront of workforce development for autonomous haulage mining operations with deployments of simulation-based training solutions in more than 17 autonomous sites globally, by utilising blended learning systems, simulation and human performance analytics our solutions are preparing the workforces of the future.”

Back in 2019, Rio, Caterpillar and WesTrac signed an agreement to supply and support mining machines, automation and enterprise technology systems at Gudai-Darri, with Rio confirming the supply of a fleet of 20 autonomous 793F trucks as well as four autonomous blast drills.

Gudai-Darri will deliver a new production hub for Rio Tinto’s iron ore business in the Pilbara. Once complete, the mine will have an annual capacity of 43 Mt, underpinning production of the Pilbara Blend, Rio’s flagship iron ore product.

Civmec extends Pilbara stay with more iron ore agreements

Civmec Ltd has won multiple new contracts for its maintenance, manufacturing and construction divisions with a combined value of over A$100 million ($77 million).

Among these awards is a three-year contract for the maintenance division with Alcoa of Australia Ltd to provide calciner maintenance, major overhaul and repair services, including scaffolding, mechanical, refractory and electrical services at its Kwinana, Pinjarra, and Wagerup refineries. These plants contain 17 calciner units, two liquor burners and five regenerative thermal oxidisers.

The manufacturing division is celebrating minerals and metals sectors contracts in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

Among these is an agreement for Civmec to supply, manufacture, trial assemble and deliver four main train load-out bin modules for the BHP-owned Jimblebar iron project. The company will also supply, fabricate, surface treat and modularise shuttle trusses, conveyor trusses, platework and stick steel for the Rio Tinto-owned Gudai-Darri iron ore project, also in the Pilbara.

Still in the Australia iron ore hub, Civmec’s construction division is set to complete a civil package, including detailed earthworks, concrete placement, cabling and pipework for a Roy Hill de-bottlenecking project, as well as the delivery of a fixed plant workshop for Rio Tinto’s Mesa A project, where the group is already undertaking other structural, mechanical, piping, electrical and instrumentation work.

SCEE to electrify Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri iron ore mine

Southern Cross Electrical Engineering is to perform plant electrical and instrumentation works at the Rio Tinto-owned Gudai-Darri (formerly known as Koodaideri) iron ore mine site in Western Australia as part of a contract valued at over A$65 million ($48 million).

The agreement will see SCEE mobilise to the Pilbara site in late 2020, with completion of work planned for December 2021.

SCEE Managing Director, Graeme Dunn, said: “We are pleased to secure this significant award with such a longstanding and valued client as Rio Tinto for whom we have undertaken many successful projects in the Pilbara. This further boosts our already strong order book and will provide a solid base of construction work in the resources sector into the 2022 financial year.”

Earlier this month, Rio opened Western Australia’s newest airport at the $2.6 billion Gudai-Darri Stage 1 iron ore project (see photo, credit: Rio Tinto). The greenfield mine development, around 35 km northwest of the Yandicoogina mine in the East Pilbara mining region, will initially be developed as a nominal 43 Mt/y high-grade, dry processing operation, with start-up expected in early 2022.

Rio flying high at technologically advanced Gudai-Darri iron ore project

Western Australia’s newest airport has opened at Rio Tinto’s $2.6 billion Gudai-Darri (formerly known as Koodaideri) iron ore project in the Pilbara where construction is progressing ahead of expected production ramp-up in early 2022.

The facility can accept a range of different aircraft including Boeing 737s, A320s, F100s and King Airs. The current flight schedule includes four flights a week with additional flights expected to be added to the schedule next year. The airport is expected to handle more than 600 workers in a day at peak operating times, according to Rio.

The airport will deliver significant benefits in terms of minimising employee interaction with vehicles and driving, as well as helping to manage employee fatigue thanks to a significant reduction in travel time from an alternate regional airport, Rio says. The airport will also provide a safer landing option for Rio Tinto’s long-standing partner, the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Rio Tinto Projects General Manager, Gudai-Darri, Anthony Radici, said: “You get a real sense of the immense size and scale of our Gudai-Darri operation once you fly into this new airport.

“The construction phase of the project is progressing well with a significant amount of infrastructure at the mine now built, millions of cubic metres of material moved, a new access road, a significant amount of the rail formation installed, two new bridges constructed and now a brand new airport.”

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Acting Chief Executive, Ivan Vella, said: “The construction phase of Gudai-Darri, our most technologically advanced mine, has a strong focus on supporting local businesses with contracts valued at more than $2.3 billion awarded to date.

“These contracts have supported approximately 2,000 jobs in the construction phase and the mining operation is expected to support about 600 jobs on an ongoing basis. We are proud to support West Australian businesses as we progress a pipeline of investment opportunities in the Pilbara valued at more than A$10 billion ($7.3 billion) over the three years to 2022.”

Contracts at Gudai-Darri valued at more than $2.3 billion have been awarded to local Pilbara, Pilbara Aboriginal and West Australian Businesses including Primero Group, NRW, DTMT, Pindan, White Springs, Hicks Civil & Mining and Karratha Earthmoving & Sand Supplies.

The full construction and design of the airport will be completed by local partners Primero Group, NRW, Worley and GHD, together with NRW subcontractors Colas, Fulton Hogan, TEC services, Brookdale Contractors, Bennco and Karlka Fencewright.

Gudai-Darri is a greenfield mine development, around 35 km northwest of the Yandicoogina mine in the East Pilbara mining region. The mine will initially be developed as a nominal 43 Mt/y high-grade, dry processing operation.