Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO; LSE: RIO) says it has made a “promising” discovery in Western Australia, 2 km east of its Winu copper-gold project, which is on track to begin production in 2023.
The world’s second largest miner also reported a maiden resource for the Winu deposit, reporting 503 million inferred tonnes grading 0.45% copper-equivalent at a 0.2% copper-equivalent cut-off grade. The resource includes a higher-grade component of 188 million tonnes grading 0.68% copper-equivalent at a cut-off grade of 0.45% copper-equivalent.
The deposit remains open at depth as well as to the north and southeast, and Rio said that studies support the development of a relatively shallow open-pit copper mine.
The discovery of a new zone of gold-dominant mineralization at Winu, called Ngapakarra, as well as a number of other drill results in close proximity to the deposit, has Rio Tinto contemplating the potential to develop multiple ore bodies within one system.
The company believes that there is further potential for even more discoveries, as it has only explored 2% of its tenements in the region.
“We’re taking a more agile and innovative approach at Winu,” Stephen McIntosh, Rio Tinto group executive of growth and innovation and health, safety and environment, said in a media statement.
“We are working on the studies for a small-scale start-up operation focussed on Winu’s higher-grade core as we take another step towards commercializing this deposit,” he said. “We are also assessing options for future expansion in the Paterson region given the extent of mineralization identified to date and our large land package.”
Winu is 130 km from Newcrest Mining’s Telfer copper-gold mine in Paterson province, East Pilbara. It’s also close to numerous copper prospects discovered recently by juniors, and 350 km southeast of Port Hedland, the world’s largest bulk export port.