Rio Tinto is to invest a further US$3.1bn in expanding its iron ore capacity in the Pilbara, Australia.

It will increase annual infrastructure capacity to 283Mt/y during 2013. Further investments will be required to achieve production of 283Mt/y, such as mine and housing expansions, and approval of these is anticipated within the next 12 months.

Rio Tinto has also approved a final feasibility study into increasing Pilbara production capacity to 333Mt/y.

Major contracts have been awarded and the procurement of long lead items commenced for what will ultimately be an additional 1.8km jetty and four-berth wharf at Cape Lambert.

The wharf and jetty will support a two-stage increase in capacity of approximately 50Mt/y each, and are designed to enable further potential growth beyond 333Mt/y.

The investment will support port and rail infrastructure works around Cape Lambert, including a two-berth wharf, new stockyard, car dumper, two stackers and reclaimers, rail marshalling yards and six new heavy-haul train units.

The mine developments required to take advantage of this increase in infrastructure capacity are currently being studied.

Options identified for review include further expansions to the recently opened Brockman 4 and Western Turner Syncline mines, plus further developments of the Nammuldi mine.

A decision on these mine developments is expected in 2011.