Rio Tinto dispatched the first train load of iron ore from the Robe River Joint Venture’s new Mesa A/Warramboo mine in the Robe Valley of the Pilbara region of Western Australia on February 19. The joint venture is owned 53% by Rio Tinto, 33% by Mitsui, 10.5% by Nippon Steel, and 3.5% by Sumitomo Metal Industries. The open-cut mine, located about 50 km west of Pannawonica, has an initial production capacity of 20 million mt/y, increasing to 25 million mt/y by 2011. Capital investment to develop the mine totaled $901 million.

The first full-length,163-car train followed the rail extension that connects to the Deepdale railway running from Pannawonica to the Cape Lambert port. It was driven by Cape Lambert train driver Shane Edwards, a local Aboriginal man, as requested by Kuruma and Marthudunera traditional owners, several of whom watched the train load and depart.

Total high-grade reserves across the Mesa A/Warramboo deposits are estimated at 249 million mt, with a total mine life of 11 years. The mine will sustain production of the sought-after Robe Valley pisolite ore at 32 million mt/y as production from the Mesa J deposit decreases.