Rio Tinto: New shiploader swings into position as Cape Lambert moves closer to 290 Mt/a target

New shiploader swings into position as Cape Lambert moves closer to 290 Mt/a target

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Rio Tinto has taken a major step forward in its expansion of its Pilbara operations, with the installation of the new shiploader with a nominal 55 million tonne annual capacity on the new wharf at Cape Lambert.

The shiploader was swung from the ’BigLift’ vessel and placed directly on to its rails on the wharf, which will eventually extend 1.4 kilometres from shore.

The shiploader was manufactured offshore and transported to the Pilbara in modular form by the specialist heavy-lift ship. The modular design meant a narrow timeframe was necessary to transfer the 1,000-tonne shiploader from the vessel to its position, minimising the safety hazard in the works and improving the construction time. Unloading and erection was completed within a few days.

Rio Tinto Pilbara Projects chief operating officer Michael Gollschewski said the shiploader was a major component of infrastructure in the expansion programme and it was exciting to see it secured in place.

“The last time we received a new shiploader was in 2007, also at Cape Lambert, on the existing wharf as part of the capacity expansion to 220 million tonnes a year. This is a powerful visible reminder that we are progressing rapidly towards the reaching our interim target of achieving 290 million tonne annual capacity for the Pilbara operations,” he said.

“The shiploader joins the two new stackers, two reclaimers and a new car dumper in the newly constructed stockyard for the Cape Lambert expansion, which means all of our major coastal infrastructure for the 290 Mt/a project is now safely on site and in place ensuring a major element of risk has now been resolved.”

The expansion is progressing rapidly and to schedule, with a variety of inland mine, rail and support infrastructure projects also forging ahead.

The new Cape Lambert wharf is being constructed in two stages with the first stage to be completed in the third quarter of 2013, consisting of a two-sided berth that will provide facilities and loading for two very large ore carriers with the capacity to deliver up to 250,000 tonnes of iron ore to each.

Work on the second stage (phase B), will add a 400-metre wharf extension with another two berths, this second stage is already well advanced, with all dredging requirements and majority of piling now completed. Once all works have been completed the Cape Lambert port will have the largest export capacity of the three iron ore port assets owned by Rio Tinto.

The Rio Tinto expansion of its Pilbara operations is the largest integrated mining project in Australian history, and is on track to complete the announced schedule:

1. 225 Mt/a by Q1 2011 – Dampier port debottlenecking (complete)
2. 230 Mt/a – Dampier port incremental (complete)
3. 290 Mt/a by Q3 2013 – Cape Lambert 60 Mt/a increment (in implementation)
4. 360 Mt/a in H1 2015 – Cape Lambert 50 Mt/a increment and car dumper replacement 20 Mt/a increment (infrastructure approved)

All approvals for the expansion to 290 Mt/a capacity are in place, and all key rail and port approvals for the 360 Mt/a stage are completed.

This project is part of the Robe River Iron Associates joint venture consisting of Rio Tinto (53 per cent), Mitsui (33 per cent), and Nippon Steel Sumitomo Metal Industries (14 per cent). Robe River Iron Associates is the world’s fourth largest seaborne supplier of iron ore and operates three open pit mining operations in Western Australia: Mesa J and Mesa A in the Robe Valley, near Pannawonica and West Angelas, approximately 100km west of Newman.

About Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and New York Stock Exchange listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Rio Tinto's business is finding, mining, and processing mineral resources. Major products are aluminium, copper, diamonds, thermal and metallurgical coal, uranium, gold, industrial minerals (borax, titanium dioxide and salt) and iron ore. Activities span the world and are strongly represented in Australia and North America with significant businesses in Asia, Europe, Africa and South America.

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