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 embarked from the new Cape Lambert B wharf carrying a cargo of 165,000 mt of “Pilbara blend” fines. The shipment was bound for Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.’s Kimitsu works in Tokyo.

The Rio Tinto shipment marked the start of commissioning of an expansion program that will see overall capacity of the company’s iron ore operations in Western Australia increase to 290 million mt/y. Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive 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. 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.

“Our focus will now be to ensure the ramp-up to full run-rate is achieved safely and efficiently. As always, we will continue to seek further productivity improvements from our fully-integrated Pilbara system, including our industry leading ‘Mine of the Future’ technology program, in order to maximize the return on our investment.” 

Rio Tinto’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.