FalCon is a previously explored gem-quality diamond resource. The name recognises the Fort à la Corne Provincial Forest in Canada where the resource is located.
We are exploring known kimberlites – volcanic rock that can sometimes contain diamonds. Bulk sampling began in early June 2019 and we are using a large scale trench cutter – previous drilling methods caused breakage of larger stones and likely undersampled diamonds – to sample large volumes of kimberlite to depths of up to 250 metres. Inspection, valuation and interpretation of the recovered diamonds is ongoing.
The Jadar project in Serbia is one of the world’s largest greenfield lithium projects. The scale and high-grade nature of the Jadar deposit provides the potential for a mine to supply lithium into the electric vehicle value chain for decades.
Jadar will produce battery-grade lithium carbonate, a critical mineral used in large scale batteries for electric vehicles and storing renewable energy. Once in operation, Jadar will be the largest source of European lithium supply for at least the next 15 years. In addition, Jadar will produce borates, which are needed for the development of renewable energy equipment such as solar panels and wind turbines.
In July 2021, we committed funding of US$2.4 billion to the Jadar lithium-borates project in Serbia, The project remains subject to receiving all relevant approvals, permits and licences and ongoing engagement with local communities, the Government of Serbia and civil society.
The proposed development will include an underground mine with associated infrastructure and equipment, including electric haul trucks, as well as a beneficiation chemical processing plant to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate.
The next steps for the project are seeking an exploitation licence and receipt of regulatory approvals. This includes approval of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies, which will shortly be made available to the public for comment. The EIA is required for the commencement of works, with construction targeted to start in 2022. Construction will take up to four years with first saleable production expected in 2026.
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.
In 2018 we approved funding for our $2.6 billion Gudai-Darri (Koodaideri) iron ore project – set to be our most intelligent mine. Gudai-Darri will sustain existing production in our Pilbara iron ore system. The project will incorporate a processing plant, associated infrastructure and a 166-kilometre rail line. Construction is progressing, with production ramp-up expected in early 2022.
In addition to technology already in use across Rio Tinto, such as autonomous trucks, trains and drills, the design of the Gudai-Darri mine uses an increased level of automation and digitisation, including advanced data analytics.
Significant innovations include a digital replica of the processing plant, accessible in real time by workers in the field, fully integrated mine automation and simulation systems, and an automated workshop.
With more than 70 design innovations in scope, Gudai-Darri will set a benchmark for our industry in terms of automation and the use of data – making mining safer and more productive.
In early 2020, we secured funding approval for the development of a 34 megawatt, 105 hectare solar photovoltaic (PV) plant at our Gudai-Darri mine – an important step in reducing our carbon footprint in the Pilbara. The Solar PV plant will deliver approximately 65 per cent of Gudai-Darri's average electricity demand once operational. During peak operations, the plant will provide 100 per cent of Gudai-Darri's electricity needs.
Gudai-Darri’s airport opened in November 2021 and is expected to handle more than 600 workers in a day at peak operating times.
Oyu Tolgoi Underground
The Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia is a world-class open pit mine and underground project. More than 80% of Oyu Tolgoi’s total value lies deep underground. We are building an underground mine complex, using block-caving mining techniques to extract the ore and transport it to the surface.
In December 2020, we confirmed the definitive estimate of cost and schedule for Panel 0 with sustainable production expected to commence in October 2022 and development capital of $6.75 billion1. These estimates include the known impacts of COVID-192. At peak production, Oyu Tolgoi is expected to produce 480,000 tonnes3 of copper per year on average, from 2028 to 2036, from the open pit and underground. By 2030 it is expected to be the fourth largest copper mine in the world.
Work on the underground Material Handling System 1 advanced in line with the definitive estimate1 however, progress on shafts 3 and 4, and other planned works, have been significantly affected by COVID-19.
1 The level of accuracy of the remaining capital and schedule within the definitive estimate is at a better level than feasibility study.
2 The definitive estimate assumes restrictions in 2021 that are no more stringent than those experienced in September 2020. Mongolia implemented further restrictions at the end of 2020 in response to a re-emergence of COVID-19. Should COVID-19 constraints be maintained at December 2020 levels, escalate further in 2021 leading to tougher restrictions, or continue beyond 2021, additional costs and schedule impacts will arise.
3 This production target (stated as recovered metal) for the Oyu Tolgoi underground and open pit mines was previously reported in a release to the market on 16 December 2020 (Market release). All material assumptions underpinning the production target continue to apply and have not materially changed.
The Resolution Copper project is a proposed underground copper mine in the Copper Triangle, approximately 60 miles east of Phoenix, Arizona, in the western United States.
Simandou contains one of the world’s largest and richest high-grade iron ore deposits, demand for which is increasing as steelmakers look to reduce carbon emissions. Simandou broadens our global portfolio of iron ore products and complements the long-term attractiveness of our Pilbara Blend™.
We remain committed to Simandou and to delivering its benefits to our partners as well as to local communities and the people of Guinea.
Activity at the mine is ramping up, with a focus on identifying opportunities to optimise costs and the construction schedule, and implementation of the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) continues. Preliminary results from the first phase of the technical optimisation of the infrastructure components are now being received from Chinese design institutes.
The Simandou project operates under the Simfer joint venture where the Government of Guinea holds 15% and Simfer Jersey holds 85%. Simfer Jersey is owned by Chalco Iron Ore Holdings (CIOH) (47%) and Rio Tinto (53%). CIOH is owned by: Chinalco (75%), Baosteel Resources (20%), China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) (2.5%) and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) (2.5%). This structure has been in place since 2017.
Rio Tinto and CIOH, which own 45.05% and 39.95% of Simandou, respectively, continue to work with the government of Guinea to explore options to realise value from the world-class Simandou iron ore deposit, as well as potential mechanisms for collaboration on infrastructure development.
In late 2017, we discovered copper-gold mineralisation at the Winu project in the Paterson Province in Western Australia.
In July 2020 we announced the maiden Resource at Winu, as well as the discovery of a new zone of gold dominant mineralisation nearby. Drilling results at Ngapakarra, about two kilometres east of Winu, provide further encouragement about the potential to develop multiple orebodies in the district. We have explored only a small percentage of our tenements in the Paterson region of Western Australia so far, which includes both our 100% owned tenements and joint ventures.
We are actively engaging with Traditional Owners through on-Country heritage surveys, monitoring and agreement making, which is expected to continue into 2021, with first ore expected in 2024, subject to regulatory approvals, Traditional Owner and other consents and COVID-19 restrictions.
The Zulti South project is on full suspension. We approved the $463 million investment (our share is $343 million) in April 2019 to sustain RBM’s current capacity and extend the life of the mine.
RBM currently operates four mines in the Zulti North lease area, a mineral separation plant and smelting facility. The Zulti South mine is expected to underpin RBM’s supply of zircon and ilmenite.