Rio Tinto has approved $US146 million ($197 million) in preliminary funding for the Koodaideri iron ore project in the Pilbara region, Western Australia.
The miner plans to develop Koodaideri into its first “intelligent” operation by including the latest in high-tech advances in the industry and by using an increased level of automation and robotics.
Koodaideri is described as a large scale, low cost, high quality project that will produce replacement tonnes and form a new production hub for the company in the Pilbara for decades to come.
The initial investment will focus on detailed engineering work on key elements of the project, the development of a rail construction camp and the first stage of the Koodaideri accommodation camp.
Rio Tinto expects to make a final investment decision on the project by the end of the year and also requires government approvals.
If approved, Rio Tinto has scheduled construction to begin in 2019 and first production in 2021. Koodaideri would create over 2000 jobs during construction and 600 permanent roles.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said the investment was an important step for the Koodaideri project, which would be a significant leap forward for the global mining industry and the company.
“We’ve been building mines in the Pilbara for over 50 years, and, subject to final approvals, Koodaideri will incorporate all of that knowledge to enable us to build the smartest, safest and most efficient mine we’ve ever constructed,” Salisbury said.
“The deployment of leading-edge technology will deliver a step-change in both safety and productivity for our business.”
Koodaideri is about 110km from Newman in the Pilbara.