Rio Tinto has loaded its first shipment of bauxite from the Amrun project in Queensland six weeks ahead of schedule.
Over 80,000 tonnes of bauxite was loaded onto the RTM Weipa at a ceremony at the Western Cape York Peninsula attended by Wik-Waya Traditional Owners.
The bauxite is set to arrive at Rio’s Yarwun alumina facility in Gladstone next week.
“We are proud to have delivered the project safely, ahead of time and within budget thanks to innovation in the design and fabrication of key infrastructure purpose-built for construction at Amrun’s remote location,” Rio Tinto growth & innovation group executive Stephen McIntosh said.
The $2.6 billion Amrun project is expected to increase Rio’s annual bauxite exports by up to 10 million tonnes.
Amrun will ramp up to full production of 22.8 million tonnes a year in 2019. The mine is being developed as an eventual replacement for Rio’s ageing East Weipa mine.
The Amrun project has been in the works since late 2015. Of the $2.6 billion put aside for the project, $1.5 billion has gone to local Queensland suppliers ($244 million to Cape York companies). Over 1200 people helped to construct the site at peak construction.
Rio Tinto is the world’s largest bauxite miner, having produced 50.8 million tonnes in 2017.
“Bringing Amrun online further strengthens our position as a leading supplier in the seaborne market,” Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios said.
“We have the largest bauxite resources in the industry and are geographically well positioned to supply China’s significant future import needs, as well as supporting our refinery and smelting operations in Australia and New Zealand.”