Rio Tinto has announced plans to accelerate its iron ore expansion programme in the Pilbara region with US$676 million of funding for early works and procurement.
The miner expects the expansion to bring its capacity to 333 million tonnes per year in the first half of 2015, six months earlier than planned.
It is part of a five year programme started in 2010 to increase the company’s capacity in Western Australia’s Pilbara by 50 per cent.
“Thanks to this faster pace of expansion we will be bringing extra tonnes to market earlier,” Rio Tinto chief executive, Iron Ore and Australia, Sam Walsh said.
“The demand outlook continues to be strong with supply lagging elsewhere in the industry and we are seeing new supplies proving slower to materialise than predicted.
“We are taking the opportunity to bring forward the next phase of our major capacity expansion to reap the benefits early and at no additional cost”.
The early port works include additional construction accommodation, the continuation of dredging, marine works and stockyard earth works contractors and the procurement of key equipment.
The rail-related funding will enable early engineering and accelerated procurement of long-lead items such as rail plant.
Rio will continue studies this year to determine the best mine development path to meet this schedule and conduct studies for supporting infrastructure such as utilities, fuel and accommodation.
Image: The Australian