Rio Tinto and Wright Prospecting will revisit a 50-year-old joint venture to secure 6.7 billion tonnes of undeveloped iron ore deposits – representing a third of Rio Tinto’s resource base – from their jointly-owned Rhodes Ridge project.

The binding joint venture updates an existing agreement between the two parties dating back to 1972 and now provides a pathway for the development of the Rhodes Ridge deposits utilising Rio Tinto’s rail, port and power infrastructure.

The two companies have now commenced an Order of Magnitude study, conducted by Rio Tinto, to consider the development of an operation before the end of the decade with initial plant capacity of up to 40 million tonnes annually, subject to the receipt of relevant approvals.

The joint venture will utilise Rio Tinto’s existing rail, port and power infrastructure, including the planned installment of 1GW of renewable power assets in the Pilbara.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Officer, Simon Trott, said Rhodes Ridge contained one of the largest undeveloped iron ore deposits in the world.

“Rhodes Ridge contains one of the biggest and best undeveloped iron ore deposits on the planet with proximate access to existing infrastructure. We are very excited we have been able to strengthen our relationship with Wright Prospecting and have a pathway to bring this high-quality resource to market,” Mr Trott said.

“With its significant resource base, the Rhodes Ridge project has the potential to underpin production of the Pilbara Blend in the decades ahead.”

The decision has been supported by the Western Australian Government, which claims the project could deliver thousands of local jobs.

Western Australian Premier and Treasurer, Mark McGowan, said the project would deliver significant benefits to the state.

“We welcome the Rhodes Ridge project and the opportunities it will bring to Western Australia,” Mr McGowan said.

“This again reinforces our state’s strength as an ideal location for business and investment which will grow our economy, further contributing to record sales in our resources sector and investment in infrastructure.”

Both Rio Tinto and Wright Prospecting will work closely with Traditional Owners, the Nyiyaparli and Ngarlawangga People, to ensure sites of significant cultural, environmental, and biodiversity value are protected as part of any future development at Rhodes Ridge.

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