Rio Tinto Pushes Ahead with Flagship Iron Ore Mine Expansion Despite Falling Prices
Rio Tinto (LSE:RIO) (ASX:RIO) (NYSE:RIO) is forging ahead in its quest to remain the top iron ore producer as the company announced it will open a new mine expansion at its Pilbara iron ore division in Australia.
The UK-based company has obtained permission from federal regulators to build a new brownfields mine next to its existing Yandicoogina iron ore mine in the Pilbara region despite falling prices for the steel-ingredient, which have hit a five-year low.
The “Yandicoogina Pocket and Billiard South Iron Ore Mine” project is expected to last for 16 years and become an integral part of Rio’s Pilbara iron ore division, which is expected to export roughly 270 million tons in 2014. The new mine expansion will also help in providing a much-needed boost in production volumes as the company continues to grow its Pilbara exports to 360 million tons per year.
According to documents submitted to the federal government, production for Rio's mine would commence in 2017 if approved.
"The proposed action is a large-scale iron ore mining project, with an estimated operational mine life of approximately 16 years. Subject to obtaining all relevant internal and external approvals, construction for the project is scheduled to commence in 2016. Production is scheduled to commence in 2017," the company said.
"The project is centered on substantial iron ore deposits in the Hamersley Ranges and is anticipated to make a significant contribution to Rio Tinto's iron ore exports over the next few decades.”
Prices for iron ore have fallen from $139 a ton to $77 in the last 10 months alone. Despite the declining price, Rio’s chief executive Sam Walsh remains committed to being Australia’s lowest-cost producer.
"Regardless of what the price is, we will be the last one standing.”
Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.