Rio Tinto Iron Ore
Today, we produce five iron ore products in Western Australia – including the Pilbara Blend, the world’s most recognised brand of iron ore – used in steelworks as sinter plant feed or direct blast furnace feed.
Pilbara Blend – fines and lump
Our Pilbara Blend products are the world’s most recognised brand of iron ore, and are known for their high-grade quality and consistency. Our Pilbara Blend products make up approximately 70% of our iron ore product portfolio. It is also the largest and most liquid iron in the market today, known as the “US dollar of iron ore”. Our higher grade ores also contribute to reducing GHG and other air emissions, which, along with its liquidity and consistent quality, makes our products the preferred iron ore for the steel industry in China.
Yandicoogina – fines
Our Yandicoogina products have a 58% iron content and low impurities, and produce a high-iron sinter. It is used by customers in East Asia and Southern China as the base load in their sinter blend.
Robe Valley – fines and lump
Our Robe Valley products have a lower iron content and a low phosphorus content, which is valued by specialty steel producers with more niche applications.
Our iron ore operations in the Pilbara comprise a world-class, integrated network of 17 iron ore mines, four independent port terminals, a 1,700-kilometre rail network and related infrastructure. Insights from data help us to explore and extract our iron ore efficiently.
Our Operations Centre in Perth uses next-generation technologies, including artificial intelligence, automation and robotics, to run operations in real-time and respond quickly to changes. Our AutoHaul™ train system is the first fully autonomous, long-distance, heavy-haul rail network – one of the world’s largest robots.
Integrated mines in Western Australia
Solar salt ops
One of the world's largest robots
Since its first loaded run in July, we have safely and steadily increased the number of autonomous trips across our iron ore operations in Western Australia. AutoHaul™ have travelled more than 1.6 million kilometres in 2018.
AutoHaul™ improves safety by reducing risk at level crossings and through its automated responses to speed restrictions and alarms. It also eliminates the need to transport drivers to and from trains mid-journey saving almost 1.5 million kilometres of road travel each year. It also improves cycle times by using information about the train and rail network topography to calculate and deliver a safe, consistent driving strategy.
In 2019, we completed the first fully integrated paperless trade in iron ore. The whole process integrated intelligent contracts, electronic documents and a trade finance blockchain resulting in a faster, more streamlined transaction. Total transaction time was reduced from six days to 24 hours. This trade built on our first fully-digitised trade finance transaction completed in 2018.
And in 2022, we achieved first ore at Gudai-Darri, our most technologically advanced mine. In addition to technology already in use across our operations – such as autonomous trucks, trains, and drills – Gudai-Darri’s design is also far more automated and digitised, including advanced data analytics. This level of automation allows us to operate equipment and vehicles remotely from Perth, improving safety and efficiency.
Each of these elements works together to deliver high-quality iron ore to our customers reliably and safely.
Our $2.6 billion Gudai-Darri iron ore project is our most technologically advanced mine. In addition to technology already in use across Rio Tinto, such as autonomous trucks, trains and drills, Gudai-Darri has more than 70 design innovations in scope.
Our teams are also using a “digital asset” – a digital replica of the site that combines data from actual processing plants with historical design information to improve the way the plants are run. By using these 3D models, teams can understand the site’s layout and specifications long before they need to enter those areas and perform work.
We’re also using a patented, world-first reclaimer bucketwheel design, which allows our teams to change out the entire bucketwheel for maintenance, improving efficiency and safety. Our primary crusher uses a similar ‘removable’ design, allowing our teams to service it from the top – rather than performing higher-risk work below the crusher – and switch out consumables faster, reducing service and maintenance time. Gudai-Darri will set a benchmark for our industry in terms of automation and the use of data – making mining safer and more productive.
The Iron Ore Company of Canada
Our Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) is a leading North American producer and exporter of premium iron ore pellets and high-grade concentrate. Our operations include a mine with five operational pits, a concentrator and a pelletising plant located near Labrador City, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, in the region known as the “Labrador Trough”, an established basin with significant deposits for the supply of high-grade iron ore products. We also operate a wholly-owned railway that links our operations to our port facilities in Sept-Îles, Quebec.
Our IOC business targets niche, high-value segments of the seaborne iron ore market; our high-grade, low-impurity IOC products allow steelmakers to operate more productively and produce higher quality steels while meeting increasingly stringent environmental standards.
A more sustainable future
In 2019, we partnered with China’s largest steel producer, China Baowu Steel Group, and Tsinghua University, one of China’s most prestigious and influential universities, to work on a joint action plan – supported by the China Iron Steel Association to explore ways to improve environmental performance across the steel value chain. We will combine our strengths on everything from research and development, technologies, processes, equipment, logistics, industry coordination and policy advisory capacities to bring together solutions to help address the steel industry’s carbon footprint.
In 2021 we announced a partnership with Paul Wurth and SHS-Stahl-Holding-Saar (SHS) to explore the viability of transforming iron ore pellets into low-carbon hot briquetted iron, a low-carbon steel feedstock, using green hydrogen generated from hydro-electricity in Canada. The feasibility study is expected to be complete in late 2021, with an investment decision on a hydrogen based direct reduction plant at industrial scale expected to follow.