Construction of Rio Tinto’s Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 (WTS2) expansion is moving ahead at a furious pace.

And it’s been a boost for local WA and Pilbara Aboriginal businesses.

To date, more than 85% of spending on the project – which commenced in 2020 – has been awarded to the businesses, directly through Rio Tinto or principal contractor Mondium.

Rio Tinto has to date awarded contracts valued at more than $500m to support this latest development of its Greater Tom Price Operations.

At peak construction, development will support a workforce of over 1000 people with the majority employed by WA businesses, including Guma Warnii, Monadelphous, Mondium, Kerman Contracting, Whittens, North West Mining & Civil, MACA Civil, Linkforce and Aerison.

Rio Tinto approved the $1b investment in the mine in November 2019 to sustain production capacity of its iron ore business in the Pilbara.

Most of the technology and equipment needed to build the Western Turner proposal will be manufactured in the state, creating more jobs for local workers.

The investment allows for the mining of existing and new deposits at WTS2 and includes construction of a new crusher and a 13km conveyor, which will help lower greenhouse gas emissions from the mine by 3.5% compared to road haulage.

First production from the new deposits at WTS2 is expected in the second half of 2021.

Premier Mark McGowan said the Pilbara region was the engine room of the nation.

“Thanks to WA’s strong management of the pandemic, we can expect more job-creating projects to come online in the coming years,” he said.

“Rio Tinto has been embedded in the Tom Price community for decades and have made a significant contribution to the town. I congratulate Rio Tinto for its commitment to this important project.

“This project will ensure Tom Price has a bright future and my government is committed to ensuring mining communities have first class services to support local families.”

Rio Tinto Iron Ore managing director of Pilbara Mines, Matthew Holcz, said the company’s commitment to Tom Price and regional communities remains as strong as ever.

“Tom Price is the birthplace of WA’s iron ore industry and more than 50 years later this investment in the Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 expansion will underpin the viability of this proud town for decades to come,” he said.

“We are proud the vast majority of contracts we have awarded to date have been to Western Australian businesses, including Pilbara Aboriginal businesses.

“This investment demonstrates our commitment to spending with local businesses, buying locally and supporting our communities through the creation of jobs.”

Rio Tinto’s Greater Tom Price production hub includes the Tom Price, Western Turner Syncline Phase 1 and Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 satellite hubs.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore currently employs more than 50% of workers living in Tom Price and this latest development will extend employment opportunities into the future.

Geographic Details

Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 is located in the Pilbara region of WA, 35km north-west of the Tom Price mine from where its ore is ultimately processed and loaded onto rail.

Rio Tinto’s Greater Tom Price production hub includes the Tom Price, Western Turner Syncline Phase 1 and Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 satellite hubs.

Rio Tinto commenced development of Western Turner Syncline Phase 2 in 2014 and expansion plans commenced in 2019.

The investment in the WTS2 mine will help sustain the current workforce at Rio Tinto’s Greater Tom Price production hub.

The project is expected to deliver an attractive internal rate of return with a capital intensity of about $25/t of production capacity.

Rio Tinto was a member of the Premier’s steel fabrication roundtable, which was convened to create more opportunities for local steel fabricating businesses on major projects.

Contract Updates

The Georgiou Group has secured the non-process infrastructure contract for the project, which will include the extension of the heavy mobile equipment workshop, construction of a new light mobile equipment workshop and tyre change facility, as well as expansion of ancillary buildings and installation of water infrastructure.

Georgiou CEO Rob Monaci said the team was looking forward to building on its expertise in non-process infrastructure.

“Over the past five years, Georgiou has really solidified their position in the non-process infrastructure space, having successfully delivered a number of NPI projects for Tianqi Lithium and, more recently, Rio Tinto Iron Ore,” he said.

“This new project enables us to continue building on our relationship with Rio Tinto as we take on more complex, technically challenging projects in WA’s north.”

Construction has commenced with an expected completion of October 2021.

Meanwhile, Fenner Dunlop will manufacture and supply 27,854m of steel cord belt and splice kits for the project.

The large racetrack reel will be manufactured by JAF, part of the Fenner Dunlop Australia group of companies, to maximise reel length, reduce splicing on site and installation time.

This follows the $55m contract awarded to Mondium for all engineering and design as well as procurement and construction works associated with the development of the process plant, overland conveyor and non-process infrastructure.

Kerman Constructing will deliver non-process infrastructure facilities and an explosives compound as part of the contract.

In addition, the contract comprises of a fixed plant workshop with amenities and office buildings, a heavy vehicle diesel storage and refuelling facility and two remote facility buildings inclusive of offices, ablutions and crib rooms as well as ammonium nitrate and emulsion storage facility.

“We are excited about the opportunity to working with Mondium at the Western Turner Syncline 2 project and looking forward to building a strong and lasting business relationship with Mondium,” Kerman managing director Chris Kerman said.

“This contract award builds on Kerman’s previous successful project outcomes in the Pilbara region in particular for Rio Tinto and other major mining companies.

“We are confident that our highly experienced team will deliver the WTS2 project to our client’s full satisfaction.”