We continue to progress important growth opportunities and projects, to bring to market materials critical to the transition to a low-carbon economy: copper, lithium and iron ore, among others.
We have a strong portfolio of projects and exploration activity in eight commodities across more than 15 countries.. We focus on investing in quality organic growth and use data and technology to improve our targeting, allowing us to uncover opportunities in areas that have been well explored by others.
In July 2021, we committed funding of $2.4 billion to develop the Jadar lithium/borates project in Serbia. This is an important step forward, moving Rio Tinto into battery materials at scale. The proposed Jadar development will include an underground mine, an industrial processing facility and associated infrastructure. The project is innovative to Rio Tinto in many ways and we are working with local and international experts to design a long-life, sustainable operation that benefits the surrounding communities.
In 2018, we announced the development of the $2.6 billion Gudai-Darri (Koodaideri) iron ore project – our most intelligent mine – located in the Pilbara, Western Australia, and we remain on track to ramp-up production in early 2022 and reach full capacity in 2023.
In July 2021, we approved a $108 million investment for underground characterisation studies to support an underground mine below the existing open pit at Kennecott Utah Copper. Potential underground mining would occur concurrently with open pit operations and result in increased copper output.
At Oyu Tolgoi, in Mongolia, we are building a world-class underground mine. Oyu Tolgoi has reserves and resources that make it one of the world’s largest known copper and gold deposits. When working to full capacity, it is expected to be the world’s fourth-biggest copper mine.
In 2004, we discovered a new mineral – now known as jadarite – in the Jadar Valley in western Serbia. Jadarite is unique given its chemical concentrations of lithium, boron and other minerals.
Lithium is part of our portfolio of materials essential to a low-carbon future, with double digit demand growth forecast over the next decade.
In July 2021, we committed funding of $2.4 billion to develop the Jadar project. We recognise that in progressing this project we must listen to and respect the views of all stakeholders. We are committed to upholding the highest environmental standards and building sustainable futures for the communities we operate in, working closely with the local community, the Government of Serbia and civil society.
The next steps for the project are the granting of an exploitation licence by the Government of Serbia and receipt of regulatory approvals. This includes approval of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies, which will be made available to the public for comment. The EIA is required for the construction permit, with construction currently targeted to commence in 2022 and expected to take up to four years.
First saleable production from the mine is expected in 2026 and, following ramp up to full production in 2029, the mine will produce annually ~58,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate, 160,000 tonnes of boric acid (B2O3 units) and 255,000 tonnes of sodium sulphate1, making us one of the top ten lithium producers in the world. It could supply enough lithium to power over one million electric vehicles per year2.
The proposed Jadar development will include an underground mine, an industrial processing facility and associated infrastructure. The project is innovative to Rio Tinto in many ways and we are working with local and international experts to design a long-life, sustainable operation that benefits the surrounding communities.
1 These production targets were previously reported in a release to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) dated 10 December 2020, “Rio Tinto declares maiden Ore Reserve at Jadar” (for battery-grade lithium carbonate it was 55,000 tonnes). All material assumptions underpinning the production targets continue to apply and have not materially changed.
2 Assuming 60kWh battery size