Operations & financial report
Robe River Iron Associates
(Rio Tinto: 53 per cent)
Robe River Iron Associates (Robe) is an unincorporated joint venture in which Mitsui (33 per cent), Nippon Steel (10.5 per cent) and Sumitomo Metal Industries (3.5 per cent) retain interests. Robe River is the worldï¿½s fourth largest seaborne trader in iron ore.
Robe River operates two open pit mining operations in Western Australia. Mesa J is located in the Robe Valley, north of the town of Pannawonica. The mine produces Robe River fines and lump, which are pisolitic iron ore products. The West Angelas mine, opened in 2002, is located approximately 100 kilometres west of the town of Newman. The mine produces West Angelas fines and lump and Marra Mamba iron ore products which were successfully incorporated into the Pilbara Blend during the year.
Expansion of mine, rail and port operations has continued, with the upgrade of Cape Lambert port from 55 Mt/a to a rated capacity of 80 Mt/a proceeding on schedule. The port has also been nominated as the preferred site for subsequent expansion as part of the upgrade of Pilbara capacity to 320 Mt/a, subject to an ongoing feasibility study.
In November, Rio Tinto and the joint venture partners approved development of the US$901 million (Rio Tinto share US$478 million) Mesa A/Warramboo mine in the western end of the Robe Valley. This followed a lengthy, ultimately successful, process to gain environmental approval. The new mineï¿½s annual production will be 20 Mt/a, increasing to 25 Mt/a by 2011, and will be replacement tonnage as Mesa Jï¿½s mine life approaches its end.
Robe River primarily exports under medium and long term supply contracts with major integrated steel mill customers in Japan, China, Europe, South Korea and Taiwan.
2007 operating performance
The effect of cyclones slowed production early in the year at Robe Riverï¿½s Pannawonica and West Angelas mines, as did a serious derailment which required significant track repairs. A two week shutdown of the Cape Lambert dumper also affected production, as did delays in commissioning a conveyor system at West Angelas.
Robe Riverï¿½s total production in 2007 was 51.5 million tonnes, comprising 25.5 million tonnes from Mesa J, and 26.0 million tonnes from West Angelas. Sales were 25.9 million tonnes of Mesa J and 25.6 million tonnes of West Angelas products.
Sales growth, based on increased production from West Angelas, was again fuelled by the growth in the Chinese market, where Robe River achieved record total sales of 52.0 million tonnes. Japan remains Robe Riverï¿½s largest single market, with total shipments in 2007 of 22.6 million tonnes.