The West Angelas iron ore mine has received a visit from political and company royalty, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott welcomed as guests on site today.
Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh and Iron Ore chief executive Andrew Harding hosted the prime ministerial delegation, showcasing the operations and employees of the West Angelas mine in the Pilbara.
Roy Tommy, a respected elder from the local indigenous Yinhawangka People and a Rio Tinto employee, led a Welcome to Country for the delegation.
The two national leaders inspected Rio Tinto’s next-generation technology mining equipment, including an autonomous haul truck and drill which form part of the Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future program.
The Pilbara tour formed part of prime minister Abe’s four-day visit to Australia the first by a Japanese Prime Minister since 2002.
Walsh said it was a great honour to have the Abe and Abbott visit Rio Tinto’s operations in the Pilbara.
“Our iron ore business was born on the back of Japanese investment and we will never, ever forget this support,” he said.
“Japan is now one of Rio Tinto’s most important trading partners and our enduring relationship for almost half a century symbolises the strengthening economic and trade ties between Australia and Japan.
“Under our Mine of the Future program we operate the most sophisticated mining technology in the world, with state-of-the-art equipment from Japan at the core.”
Harding said he was also pleased to show some of the equipment to Abe and Abbott and demonstrate why Rio Tinto are world leaders in mining technology.
“This visit builds on nearly 50 years of successful and long standing partnerships between Rio Tinto and our Japanese joint venture partners, suppliers, customers and friends. We are intent on continuing to build these relationships through our technology partnerships to deliver mutual benefits.
Rio Tinto operates 15 mines in the Pilbara, a 1600km rail network, four port terminals and two power stations, which are integrated through an operations centre in Perth.
Rio Tinto’s operations in Western Australia have reached a run rate of 290 million tonnes a year, with a low-cost expansion pathway in place to expand this to 360 million tonnes a year.
The West Angelas mine, south-east of Cape Lambert, is an open-pit mine with fly-in, fly-out employees. It is part of a joint venture between Rio Tinto (53 per cent), Mitsui (33 per cent), Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation (14 per cent). The mine produced 29 million tonnes of ore in 2013.