Rio Tinto has announced the approval of a $110 million pre-feasibility study (PFS) for the development of the Rhodes Ridge iron ore project in the East Pilbara in Western Australia.

The commencement of a PFS follows completion of an Order of Magnitude study that considered development of an operation with initial capacity of up to 40 million tonnes annually, subject to relevant approvals. The PFS is expected to be completed by the end of 2025 and will be followed by a feasibility study. First ore from the initial development is expected by the end of this decade.

Rio Tinto is planning to spend more than $400 million on exploration over five years from 2024 to 2028 as part of the ongoing study phases. Study work to date indicates a staged development with an initial hub likely to be located in the northern part of the project, adjacent to existing rail infrastructure.

In 2022, Rio Tinto and Wright Prospecting agreed to modernise the 50:50 joint venture covering the Rhodes Ridge project, located 40km north-west of Newman.

Rhodes Ridge contains 6.8 billion tonnes of mineral resources at an average grade of 61.6 per cent iron (Fe), including 5.3 billion tonnes at 62.2 per cent Fe and 0.6 billion tonnes at 63.9 per cent Fe.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Simon Trott, said that the size and quality of the resource base at Rhodes Ridge has the potential to underpin Rio Tinto’s iron ore business in the Pilbara for decades to come. 

“Longer term, the resource could support a world-class mining hub with a potential capacity of more than 100 million tonnes of high-quality iron ore a year,” Mr Trott said. 

“We are committed to working closely with the Traditional Owners, the Nyiyaparli and Ngarlawangga People, as we progress this project.”

The joint venture will utilise Rio Tinto’s existing rail, port and power infrastructure, including the planned instalment of renewable power assets in the Pilbara.

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