Rio Tinto and partners to spend $1.55 billion on Pilbara iron ore projects

Rio Tinto has become the latest mining company to launch a large-scale iron ore replenishment drive in Western Australia, after it announced it would spend US$1.55 billion to maintain production capacity at two projects.

The Anglo-Australian major and its joint venture partners Mitsui & Co and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal have committed to developing the projects at Robe River Joint Venture, located in the mineral-rich Pilbara region.

Rio will contribute $820 million of the total investment sum, which the company said would enable it to sustain production of its Pilbara Blend brand of iron ore and its Robe Valley lump and fines products.

The news follows BHP’s approval of a $2.9 billion expansion at its South Flank iron ore operation in June, which was preceded by Fortescue’s May announcement of a $1.28 billion spend to extend its higher grade Eliwana project, also in the Pilbara.

Work at Robe River is expected to create around 1,200 jobs, further adding to Western Australia’s resurgent mining construction industry.

Rio owns 53% of the Robe River JV, with the projects set to take on increased importance within its portfolio, after the company recent divesting of its coal assets, with a view to focusing on its core commodities.