Rio Tinto will expand output from one of the world’s premier bauxite deposits following approval of the $1.9 billion Amrun project (formerly known as South of Embley). Amrun involves the construction of a bauxite mine and associated processing and port facilities on the Cape York Peninsula in north Queensland.

The planned initial output is 22.8 million metric tons per year (mt/y), replacing production from the depleting East Weipa mine and increasing annual bauxite exports from Cape York by around 10 million mt.

Production and shipping are expected to commence in the first half of 2019, ramping up to full production by the end of the year. The project’s design provides options for future expansion to 50 million mt/y. The majority of capital expenditure for the Amrun project is scheduled for 2017 and 2018.

Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh said, “Amrun is one of the highest quality bauxite projects in the world. It is a tier-one asset that will deliver significant benefits to all our stakeholders.

“In addition to generating attractive returns, with mining costs in the first quartile of the industry cost curve, it will provide jobs and strengthen the economy for the people of Cape York and Queensland for many decades.

“This long-life, low-cost, expandable asset offers a wide variety of development options and pathways over the coming decades. We are establishing Cape York bauxite as the product of choice for the Chinese seaborne market with consistent quality, security of supply and strong technical marketing support. Amrun will be significant in helping to meet growing bauxite demand from China.”

Rio Tinto has agreed with the traditional owners to change the name of the South of Embley project to Amrun, which is the Wik-Waya name for the area where the processing and port facilities will be developed.

The Amrun project is about 40 km south of Rio Tinto’s existing East Weipa and Andoom mines on the Cape York Peninsula in far north Queensland. Rio Tinto holds 1.49 billion mt of bauxite reserves and 1.91 billion mt of resources in the Cape York region.