Open cut iron mine in the Pilbara.

As construction on the Western Range Pilbara iron ore mine commences, $1 billion worth of local contracts have been awarded to Western Australian businesses, helping to support the economy and create new jobs.

Western Range will support 1,600 construction jobs and 800 operation jobs and will complement production from Rio Tinto’s existing Paraburdoo mining hub, which includes construction of a primary crusher and an 18km conveyor system linking it to the existing Paraburdoo processing plant.

Production from the mine is expected to commence in 2025 with an annual capacity of 25 million tonnes of iron ore. 

The Western Range project operates under a joint venture between Rio Tinto (54 per cent) and its long-standing customer of more than 40 years, Baowu Steel (46 per cent).  

Western Australia Premier, Roger Cook, welcomed the significant milestone, and met with a senior delegation from Baowu Steel following the State Government’s recent mission to China to explore and grow trade and investment opportunities for Western Australia.

Contracts awarded as part of the project include:

  • Civmec – awarded a contract valued at more than $330 million for the construction of a new Run of Mine (ROM) pad, primary crushing facility, overland conveying circuit, and modifications to the Coarse Ore Stockpile and downstream conveying system
  • CIMIC Group’s CPB Contractors – awarded a contract valued at approximately $250 million to deliver the main infrastructure bulk earthworks
  • Primero Group – awarded a contracted valued at approximately $54 million for the design, supply, construction and commissioning of the Non-Process Infrastructure facilities onsite
  • MACA – awarded a contract valued at approximately $60 million to construct a camp pad and access road as well as crushing and screening work
  • Pilbara Aboriginal Businesses – contracts totalling $39 million

Western Range aligns with Rio Tinto’s local procurement strategy which aims to increase opportunities for Pilbara, West Australian and Australian businesses to be a part of the company’s supply chain.

 In 2022 Rio Tinto increased its spend with more than 2,400 suppliers in Western Australia to $8.6 billion. Of this spend, $618 million was spent with Pilbara-based businesses and a record $504 million was spent with Indigenous businesses in Western Australia. This included $439 million spent with Traditional Owner businesses – an increase of 45 per cent from 2021.

The Western Range project milestone comes as the State Government released a new report highlighting the potential for Western Australia to join the rapidly growing global green steelmaking value chain. The report delivers on an important election commitment of green jobs and green steel manufacturing. 

Mr Cook said the Pilbara continues to be the engine room of Australia’s economy.

“It’s significant projects like the Western Range that reinforces Western Australia as an attractive and secure destination for business and investment,” Mr Cook said. 

“I commend Rio Tinto and Baowu Steel on this latest project milestone which has resulted in numerous Western Australian businesses benefiting from construction contracts worth millions of dollars.

“The boost to local content goes to the heart of our Jobs Plan which is about preferencing Western Australian workers and local businesses.

“It’s through significant projects like these that we can build a long pipeline of work for Western Australians into the future.”

Federal Mines and Petroleum Minister, Bill Johnston, said it’s great to see Western Australian businesses benefit from another significant investment into the state’s world-leading iron ore industry.

“This long-term investment by Rio Tinto and Baowu Steel highlights the confidence the joint venture partners have in Western Australia as a safe, secure and stable mining jurisdiction.”

Pilbara MLA, Kevin Michel, said it’s vital that businesses operating in the region keep investing in growing opportunities to benefit Western Australian workers and the local community.

“Developments like this position the Pilbara as the best place to invest and do business.” 

China Baowu said it is very pleased to see the Western Range project progressing smoothly, with huge benefits brought to business and local communities in Western Australia. 

Baowu said it is committed to becoming a world-class international company and aims to promote overseas projects following ESG standards, to contribute to the localisation of the project and community development.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Simon Trott, said Rio Tinto spends billions of dollars with local suppliers across Western Australia and the Pilbara every year, helping support thriving communities across the State by providing local jobs for local people.

“The spending of $1 billion with Western Australian businesses at Western Range marks a considerable milestone for both the project and those local businesses we are partnering with,” Mr Trott said. 

“The connection between Rio Tinto and China Baowu in the Pilbara extends more than 40 years and we are pleased to be further deepening our relationship through our joint commitment to study opportunities for the production of low-carbon iron in Western Australia.”

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