By Rhiannon Hoyle


Rio Tinto PLC said it has agreed to update a decades-old joint venture with closely held Wright Prospecting Pty Ltd. that could lead to the development of a massive untapped iron-ore deposit in remote northwest Australia.

Rio Tinto--the world's top iron-ore producer alongside Brazil's Vale SA--said the Rhodes Ridge project in Western Australia's East Pilbara mining region has one of the world's largest and highest-quality undeveloped iron-ore deposits. The partners will consider developing a mining operation there before the end of the decade, with an initial annual plant capacity of 40 million metric tons, Rio Tinto said.

The project makes up roughly one-third of the mining giant's existing resource base in Australia's iron-rich Pilbara.

"We are very excited we have been able to strengthen our relationship with Wright Prospecting and have a pathway to bring this high-quality resource to market," said the head of Rio Tinto's iron ore business, Simon Trott.

For years, the deposit's ownership was at the center of a legal dispute between Wright Prospecting and Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd.

An agreement between Rio Tinto and Wright has been in place since 1972, Rio Tinto said. Under the new binding joint venture, the deposits would be developed utilizing Rio Tinto's rail, port and power infrastructure.

Rio Tinto said a drilling program is under way to support future project studies.

"With its significant resource base, the Rhodes Ridge project has the potential to underpin production of the Pilbara Blend in the decades ahead," Mr. Trott said, referring to the miner's flagship iron-ore product.


Write to Rhiannon Hoyle at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 17, 2022 19:09 ET (23:09 GMT)

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