Rio Tinto to Invest in Seawater Desalination Plant in Pilbara

Rio Tinto has unveiled its intention to invest $395 million in a seawater desalination plant in Western Australia's Pilbara region
Seawater Desalination
Seawater DesalinationImage Source – Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has unveiled its intention to invest $395 million in a seawater desalination plant in Western Australia's Pilbara region, aiming to secure future water supply for the company's coastal operations and communities in the area. The proposed Dampier Seawater Desalination Plant, subject to Commonwealth and State Government approvals, will be situated within Rio Tinto's existing iron ore port operations at Parker Point. Initially, it will have a nominal capacity of four gigalitres per year, with the potential to expand to eight gigalitres in the future. The project also includes the construction of a new supply pipeline to connect to the existing water network.

Pending the necessary approvals, construction is expected to commence in 2024, with the plant becoming operational and producing water by 2026. During the peak of construction, the project is anticipated to provide employment opportunities for approximately 300 individuals.

Rio Tinto has been actively engaging with the associated Traditional Owners and Custodians regarding the project. The company expresses gratitude to the Ngarluma people, on whose Traditional lands the plant will be built, and the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, representing the five Traditional Owner groups in the region.

Water from the desalination plant will be transferred to the West Pilbara Water Supply Scheme, owned and operated by the Water Corporation, and subsequently distributed to Rio Tinto's coastal communities and operations.

The plant will be constructed on previously reclaimed land and will utilize reverse osmosis technology to remove salt and other impurities from ocean water. Leveraging existing infrastructure at Rio Tinto's Parker Point operations and its proximity to the Water Corporation network, the project aims to minimize disruption to the local environment.

Simon Trott, Chief Executive of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, emphasizes the scarcity of water resources, particularly in the Pilbara, and expresses satisfaction that the desalination plant will contribute to securing future water supply for Rio Tinto-supplied communities and coastal operations in the West Pilbara.

The planned $395 million investment in the plant is included in the Group's Sustaining Capital expenditure.

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