Article – Rio wants biggest mine in Pilbara29 July 2014
23 July 2014
The West Australian
Rio Tinto is working on plans to build the biggest single pit iron ore mine in the Pilbara, filing environmental applications for a 70 million tonne-a-year monster at its Yandicoogina operation.
In environmental approval documents released for comment this week, Rio says it is conducting pre-feasibility studies on a new pit at Yandicoogina to replace tonnes from other mining areas at the project as they are depleted.
The documents suggest the Pocket and Billiard South pit would be about 7.5km long and nearly a kilometre wide.
Its output would eclipse that of the Pilbara’s current title holder, BHP Billiton’s Mt Whaleback mine. At 5.5km long and 2km wide, Mt Whaleback produces about 55 million tonnes a year.
BHP’s Yandi operations have a nominal 75mtpa capacity, but from multiple open pits.
Rio told the Environmental Protection Authority it wanted to begin production at the new pit in 2017, at an initial rate of 28mtpa.
That would take total production at Yandicoogina to 70mtpa, with expansion of the pit likely as other areas of the mining hub wind down.
Yandicoogina currently ships ore at a rate of about 54mtpa, and Rio said last year it planned to up that by about 8mtpa as part of its push to export 330mtpa by the middle of next year.
It is unclear whether additional tonnes from Pocket and Billiard South could be used to help Rio hit a 360mtpa rate in 2017, as planned.
Rio had also previously flagged plans to build a 70mtpa mine at Koodaideri, but pushed back a decision on the $3 billion project until 2017.
Courtesy of The West Australian