Rio Tinto plans to expand its Pilbara, Western Australia iron ore facility to 330Mt/y.

It is to release US$200M funding to prepare for the expansion, which will be used for dredging contracts for early works on the expansion of Cape Lambert port (CLB).

The dredging is associated with the proposed construction of an additional 1.8km, four-berth jetty and wharf at Cape Lambert to increase its capacity from 80Mt/y to 100mt/y.

Rio Tinto's growth of its Pilbara iron ore operations consists of four steps:

- 225 Mt/y by Q1 2011 - Dampier port systems efficiencies (in implementation);

- 230 Mt/y by Q2 2012 - Dampier port incremental gains (in feasibility study);

- 280 Mt/y by H1 2014 - CLB 1st 50 Mt/y increment (now in feasibility study); and

- 330 Mt/y by H1 2016 - CLB 2nd 50 Mt/y increment (pre-feasibility completed).

Rio Tinto chief executive Iron Ore and Australia, Sam Walsh, said the dredging works would help ensure that subsequent decisions on the expansion of operations could be implemented as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The dredging works are dependent upon a number of government and other approvals, most notably that of the Robe River joint venture partners with regard to the Cape Lambert port.