Bolstering its operations in the iron ore-rich Pilbara, amid one of the biggest mining expansions in Australian history, Rio Tinto recently took delivery of a shiploader at a new wharf at Cape Lambert, which will increase the capacity by 55 million metric tons per year (mt/y). The shiploader was inaugurated when it swung from the “Big Lift” vessel and was placed directly on rails at the port, to eventually extend 1.4 km from shore. Manufactured offshore, the 1,000-ton shiploader was brought in by a specialist heavy-lift ship in a narrow timeframe—maximizing safety while minimizing costs.

“This is a powerful reminder we are progressing toward reaching our interim target of 290 million ton annual capacity for Pilbara operations,” said Rio Tinto Pilbara Projects CEO Michael Gollschewski. “All of our major coastal infrastructure for the project is now on site.”

The first stage of the Cape Lambert wharf, expected to be constructed in the third quarter of 2013, will consist of a dual-sided berth that provides facilities for loading two 250,000-dwt ore carriers. Stage two, already advanced, will witness the addition of a 400-m wharf extension, with dredging requirements and most piling complete. Upon completion, the port will have the largest export capacity of the three iron ore port assets Rio Tinto owns.