Rio Tinto is investing nearly $1 billion to expand its Cape Lambert iron ore export port in Western Australia from its current annual capacity of 80 million mt/y to 180 million mt/y by 2016. On July 14, 2010, the company announced $200 million in funding to allow dredging contracts to be issued as part of early works on the port expansion. Subsequently, on August 3, 2010, the company said it will invest a further $790 million to construct a new 1.8-km jetty and four-berth wharf to run parallel to the port’s existing jetty and four-berth wharf. The latter investment includes $375 million for marine works related to the construction of the new wharf and $415 million for the procurement of long-lead items such as pile and marine structure and on-shore earthworks and machines.

The early construction works at Cape Lambert are dependent upon a number of government and other approvals, including the approval of Rio Tinto’s Robe River joint-venture partners. A final investment decision is expected to be made by the end of 2010.

Rio Tinto’s investments in export port facilities in Western Australia are being made in support of an overall expansion of iron ore production capacity at its Pilbara operations to 330 million mt/y. The company currently has nameplate production capacity of 220 million mt/y in the Pilbara and expects production during 2010 to be close to that total.

The timeline for Rio Tinto’s planned port capacity expansions in Western Australia includes the following interim targets:
•  225 million mt/y by the first quarter of 2011 based on port systems efficiencies currently being implemented at Dampier port;
•  230 million mt/y by the second quarter of 2012 based on incremental gains at Dampier port, currently in feasibility study;
•  280 million mt/y by the first half of 2014 based on the addition of an initial 50-million-mt/y increment to Cape Lambert capacity, currently in feasibility study; and
•  330 million mt/y by the first half of 2016 based on the addition of a second 50-million-mt/y increment at Cape Lambert, for which the prefeasibility study has been completed.