Officials at Rio Tinto have announced completion of the first phase of the expansion at the world’s second-biggest iron ore project in Australia’s prolific Pilbara region with a ceremony at Cape Lambert.

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett MLA opened Cape Lambert wharf B, bringing Rio Tinto’s Pilbara’s iron ore operational capacity to 290 million metric tons per year (mt/y), making it the largest iron ore operation in Australia and the second-largest worldwide.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore CEO Andrew Harding said, “Our project execution performance is second to none, delivering this expansion ahead of schedule and under budget, as testament to our focus on value-driven growth at our low-cost operations.”

“By running Australia’s lowest-cost iron ore operations,” he added, “we will ensure the benefits continue to flow through to the bottom line;” the ramp-up schedule, added company officials, is pending a full run-rate by Q2 2014.

Phase two expansion of the port, rail and power infrastructure to 360 million mt/y is under way, added company representatives. Mine capacity growth options are under evaluation, including incremental tons from low-cost productivity improvements, expansion of existing mines and the potential new mine development.