Iron ore mine pit in Pilbara Region

Rio Tinto and China Baowu Steel Group (Baowu) have entered into a joint venture for the Western Range iron ore project in the Pilbara, Western Australia, investing US$2 billion (US$1.3 billion Rio Tinto share) to develop the mine.

The joint venture is expected to support about 1,600 jobs during the construction phase, with the mine requiring about 800 ongoing operational roles which are expected to be filled by existing workers transitioning from other sites in the Paraburdoo mining hub.

Pending shareholder, regulatory and State Agreements approvals, construction of the Western Range iron ore project is expected to begin in early 2023, and will include construction of a primary crusher and an 18km conveyor system linking it to the existing Paraburdoo processing plant.

Western Australian Premier, Mark McGowan, said the Western Australian Government has welcomed the news of the joint venture. 

“This significant investment in Western Australia reflects the State Government’s efforts in attracting investment, business and long-term developments that support jobs and boosts our economy,” Mr McGowan said.  

“Western Australia’s strength is being able to provide a continued stable investment environment, which is testament to our growing economy, innovative and high-technological capabilities as well as our outstanding training opportunities and skilled workforce.”

Western Range’s annual production capacity of 25 million tonnes of iron ore will help sustain production of the Pilbara Blend from Rio Tinto’s existing Paraburdoo mining hub, with the first ore expected to be shipped in 2025.

Rio Tinto will be the majority stakeholder (54 per cent) in the joint venture with its long-standing customer China Baowu Steel Group (46 per cent). 

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Simon Trott, said the joint venture is a significant milestone for both Rio Tinto and Baowu. 

“We have enjoyed a strong working relationship with Baowu for more than four decades, shipping more than 200 million tonnes of iron ore under our original joint venture, and we are looking forward to extending our partnership at Western Range,” Mr Trott said.

“At the same time, Rio Tinto and Baowu continue to work together on low-carbon steelmaking research, exploring new methods to reduce carbon emissions and improve environmental performance across the steel value chain.”

Rio Tinto and Baowu have committed to continuing to work together to improve environmental performance across the steel-making value chain.

Rio Tinto and the Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation have also jointly developed a Social, Cultural and Heritage Management Plan for the Western Range project.

Rio Tinto has worked closely with the Traditional Owners on whose country Western Range is situated – the Yinhawangka People – to co-design a Social and Cultural Heritage Management Plan for the project, designed to protect significant cultural and heritage values in the area.

The plan, which was agreed with Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation and announced earlier this year, outlines protocols for joint decision-making on environmental matters and mine planning.

“We have worked in partnership with the Yinhawangka People to jointly develop a Social, Cultural and Heritage Management Plan as part of our commitment to protecting significant cultural and environmental values at Western Range,” Mr Trott said.

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