Rio Tinto has announced plans for new spending at its Marandoo iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and at its 58.72%-owned Iron Ore Co. of Canada (IOC) operations in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The new projects are in addition to previously announced expansion plans for the company’s Pilbara mines (E&MJ, January 2011, p. 14) and for IOC (E&MJ, June 2010, p. 6).

At Marandoo, Rio Tinto will invest $933 million to extend the life of the Marandoo mine by 16 years to 2030. The project includes construction of a wet processing plant and on-site facilities, an accommodation village and construction camp, and additional mining fleet.

One component of the Marandoo project is a water management strategy to manage the operation’s dewatering, including priority water delivery to the Tom Price township and mine operations, the reinjection of water into the Southern Fortescue borefield to the north, and a proposed irrigated agriculture scheme. The project requires a number of government and regulatory approvals, all of which have been received or are progressing on schedule.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Iron Ore and Australia Sam Walsh said the Marandoo extension complements major expansion programs now under way and will play an important role in sustaining the annual capacity rate at the company’s Pilbara operations. Located 35 km northeast of the town of Tom Price, the project will extend Marandoo mine life at its current mining rate of 15 million mt/y year by developing adjacent reserves below the water table.  

“With a high iron and low phosphorus content, Marandoo’s Marra Mamba ore assists in maintaining the Pilbara Blend grade requirements and maximizing the value of our integrated Pilbara operations,” Walsh said.

At IOC, Rio Tinto has given the go-ahead to a further $277-million investment (Rio Tinto share $163 million) in the second phase of a three-phase project that will ultimately raise IOC’s concentrate production capacity by 40% to 26 million mt/y. The phase-two spending will increase IOC’s spiral and magnetite concentrate production capacity by an average of 1.3 million mt/y to 23.3 million mt/y beginning in 2013.

The third stage of the expansion to 26 million mt/y is currently under study, and a final investment decision is expected by 2012.

“Global seaborne iron ore demand is projected to increase substantially over the next decade, and IOC’s concentrate is well placed to complement the increasing use of lower-quality ore to meet that demand,” Walsh said. “With high iron content and very low levels of impurities, IOC’s concentrate provides significant value to steel producers as ore grades from direct shipping mines continue to decline.”