Rio Tinto is to invest US$833M more in its iron ore operations in Western Australia's Pilbara region, upgrading power and fuel supplies as it greatly expands production of the raw material.

It will upgrade its Pilbara power and gas network with a US$520M investment and a further US$313M will be allocated to fuel infrastructure facilities.

The projects are needed to support production capacity of 283Mt/y, Rio’s target for 2013. The fuel infrastructure project will also help support the next phase of potential expansion, to 333Mt/y in 2015.

Rio said last week US$310M would go toward building a new coastal water-supply system for its Pilbara mining operations.

Sam Walsh, chief executive of Rio's iron ore and Australian operations said: "This investment marks yet another significant step towards the expansion of iron ore production by 50% in the five years to 2015, a timeline we recently brought forward by six months."

Rio Tinto said it will improve the power and gas network to deliver an additional 120MW, with two open-cycle gas turbines to be installed at a new power station near its West Angelas mine and another turbine at an existing power station near its Dampier operations.

On completion, the fuel network will have a total storage capacity of 100ML, with 56ML additional capacity at Parker Point port terminal at Dampier.

Two new inland distribution hubs will also be created, removing the requirement for two trains to transport fuel from Port Hedland, some 400km to the north.