Mining giant Rio Tinto has officially opened its $338m Silvergrass iron ore mine in Western Australia to produce low-phosphorous ore crucial for the company’s premium Pilbara Blend product.

The Silvergrass iron ore mine is located in the Pilbara region nearly 70km north-west of Tom Price, a mining town in the Australian state. Operations at the 16th iron ore mine of Rio Tinto will boost its annual production capacity by an additional 10 million tonnes.

The Silvergrass iron ore mine is a satellite deposit found within the Greater Nammuldi precinct and is in close proximity with Rio Tinto’s Nammuldi mine.

According to Rio Tinto, the Silvergrass iron ore mine comprises high-quality, low-phosphorus Marra Mamba ore which will be processed at the Greater Nammuldi processing plant. The processed iron will be blended into the Pilbara Blend product.

Rio Tinto CEO J-S Jacques said “Silvergrass is a great example of our value-over-volume approach in action as the mine will deliver the high-quality, low-cost ore used to maintain the world-class premium Pilbara Blend product our customers love so much.

“Silvergrass is a further demonstration of our long-standing commitment to the Pilbara region in Western Australia where we’ve invested more than US$20 billion over the past decade.”

Rio Tinto says that the brownfields expansion project will bring down mine operating costs following the construction of a conveyor system of 9km length. The conveyor system will replace conventional haulage routes that connect the Silvergrass iron ore mine to the existing Nammuldi processing plant.

Rio Tinto expects the brownfield expansion of the Silvergrass iron ore mine to yield attractive returns with the internal rate of return for the $338 investment likely to be more than 100%. 

Over 500 jobs were created during the construction of the Australian iron ore mine with construction contracts worth over $180m handed over to Western Australian companies Decmil and RCR Resources.

Image: Rio Tinto’s Silvergrass iron ore mine in Pilbara region, Western Australia. Photo: courtesy of Rio Tinto.