Rio Tinto plans to ramp up its assessment of the Winu copper-gold discovery in the far east Pilbara region of Western Australia.
Speaking at a Macquarie Australia conference in Sydney, group executive of growth and innovation Stephen McIntosh said the company needed to determine whether the project was of “Rio Tinto scale.”
The company noticed the potential of the site given its convenient location, flat topography and shallow depth, making it suitable for open pit mining.
Its interest in Winu is part of a larger industry focus on copper given the metal is an important ingredient in the manufacturing of electric vehicles (EV).
Last year, Rio Tinto spent 53 per cent of its greenfield exploration funding on copper given the increased demand for the commodity.
It is estimated that a regular EV contains around 85 kilograms of copper compared to 25 kilograms for regular vehicles.
China’s increased emphasis on reducing urban pollution and decreasing its dependence on oil has led to a spike in production of EVs.
The Winu discovery, which is 100 per cent owned by Rio Tinto, is an example of the company’s focus on its global exploration projects, according to McIntosh.
“We have demonstrated our long-term commitment to greenfield exploration and have arguably the best-funded, multi-commodity programme in the industry,” he said.
“Winu is just one opportunity of many in our high-quality pipeline of exploration projects globally.”
McIntosh highlighted Rio Tinto’s focus on divesting from discoveries that aren’t “Tier 1” and using the money to invest in ongoing exploration programs on a global scale.