Rio Tinto has approved $197 million in preliminary funding for its Koodaideri iron ore mine in Western Australia's Pilbara region.
The proposed plan for Koodaideri mine is to fully integrate advanced robotics, driverless trucks and driverless trains into its operations.
Koodaideri mine will form a major new production hub for Rio Tinto which will power operations for decades to come. The mine forms part of Rio Tinto's strategy of producing higher quality ore, which China is increasingly preferring. Rio Tinto has highlighted the growing price gap between high grade and low grade ore.
"We've seen the discount grow from 30 per cent in the first three quarters to over 40 per cent," Rio Tinto's Iron Ore executive Chris Salisbury said.
The $197 million in preliminary funding will be focused on producing engineering work on key elements of the project, including the development of a rail construction camp and the first stage of the Koodaideri accommodation camp.
Rio has scheduled for construction to begin in 2019, with first production occurring in 2021. However, Rio still needs to make a final investment decision on the project and the mine also requires government approval.
Chris Salisbury also spoke about the significance of the mine receiving this preliminary funding.
“We’ve been building mines in the Pilbara for over 50 years, and, subject to final approvals, Koodaideri will incorporate all of that knowledge to enable us to build the smartest, safest and most efficient mine we’ve ever constructed,” Salisbury said.
“The deployment of leading-edge technology will deliver a step-change in both safety and productivity for our business.”
"We will bring all our technologies into a single place with a mine that is purpose-built to adapt those technologies.”
"We are calling it our intelligent mine."
Rio anticipates that the Koodaideri mine will produce 40 million tonnes per year by 2021, though this could grow to 70 million tonnes or more. This will add to the 300 million tonnes of iron ore Rio Tinto already extracts from its Australian mines.
Source: Rio Tinto