We look at growth through a variety of different lenses – starting with exploration for new sources of essential materials.
We have 63 programmes in seven commodities across 17 countries; our spend on exploration over the years has been consistent at around $250 million, which we believe remains a differentiator for Rio Tinto.
We take an advanced approach to data and technology to improve our targeting, allowing us to uncover opportunities in areas that have been well explored by others. Our copper-gold discovery at Winu in Western Australia, in one example of this capability; another is FalCon, a diamond project in Saskatchewan, Canada.
We also focus on investing in high-quality organic growth.
In 2018, for example, we shipped our first tonnes of bauxite from our new Amrun mine in Queensland, Australia – six weeks ahead of schedule. Also in 2018, we announced the development of the $2.6 billion Koodaideri iron ore project – our most intelligent mine – located in the Pilbara, Western Australia. In 2019, we announced a $1.5 billion investment to continue production at our Kennecott copper mine, in the United States, extending operations there to 2032.
We are building a world-class underground mine at Oyu Tolgoi, in Mongolia. We have made significant progress on a number of key elements in the construction during 2019. However, the ground conditions are more challenging than expected and we are reviewing our mine plan and considering a number of mine design options. Delays are not unusual for such a large and complex project and we are focused on finding the right pathway to deliver this high value project.
In the US, the Resolution Copper Project reached a significant milestone in 2019 with the release of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) which will allow us to continue progressing one of the world’s most significant copper deposits towards development.
Finally, we are looking at options to grow our position in minerals relating to battery technology. A good example of this is our lithium project – Jadar – in Serbia.
In 2004, we discovered a new mineral containing both borates and lithium in Serbia’s Jadar Valley, which we called jadarite. Lithium is a key raw material for battery technologies used in renewable energy storage and electric vehicles.
After more than a decade of research and development, we have started the pre-feasibility study of our potential jadarite mine and processing facility. The study will help us to understand the scale and quality of the mineral and develop new technology to extract and process it.
Alongside our environmental and social impact assessment, the study is allowing us to explore different ways to potentially develop the project – from logistics to economics, and environment to impact on local communities.
Looking at longer term growth, we maintain our industry-leading investment in exploration. We have over 70 programmes underway with activity in seven commodities across 16 countries. Our planned spend on exploration in 2019 is around $250 million.