Top miner Rio Tinto loaded the first shipment of iron ore from its expanded port, rail and mine operations in Australia on September 2. The Tai Shan, a Rio Tinto marine-chartered cape-size vessel, was launched from the new Cape Lambert B wharf carrying 165,000 metric tons (mt) of Pilbara blend fines and bound for Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp.’s Kimitsu works in Tokyo.

The Rio shipment marked the start of commissioning of an expansion program to witness overall capacity of the company’s iron ore operations in Western Australia to increase to 290 million mt/y.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Officer Andrew Harding said, “The 290 project is the largest integrated mining project in Australia. The delivery of 290 ahead of its original schedule and within budget is a testament to our focus on value-driven growth of our low-cost operations.”

“Given the demanding operating environment in Western Australia over the recent period, this stands as a noteworthy achievement,” he added. “I pay credit to the efforts and commitment of our employees, contractors and partners in the Robe River joint venture for what has been a genuine team effort.”

Rio’s phase-two expansion of its port, rail and power infrastructure to 360 million mt/y of capacity is under way. A number of options for mine capacity growth are being evaluated, including incremental metric tons from further low-cost productivity improvements, expansion of existing mines, and the potential development of new mines.