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This is the future for Weipa – Rio Tinto Amrun project in full swing

Published on 30th August 2017

The project that will future proof Weipa’s mining operations is in full swing, with more than 1100 workers currently on-site at Amrun.

The first shipment of bauxite won’t leave the new port for another 18 months or so – Rio Tinto said it was still on track for the opening quarter of 2019 – but there’s still a hive of activity at the site, located south of Weipa’s Embley River.

Dan van der Westhuizen, the man in charge of Rio Tinto’s operations in Weipa, said he was excited about the progress of Amrun.

“We continue to grow the Weipa business with the two year anniversary of the funding announcement of the Amrun project only a few months away,” he said.

“A large amount of work completed means the project remains on track overall to meet the schedule and budget.”

Mr van der Westhuizen said Rio Tinto had transformed its organisational structure to accommodate operating across three geographical regions (East Weipa, Andoom and Amrun).

“We are now less than 10 months away from first operational employees and activities at Amrun (clearing and development),” he said.

“The market continues to be competitive, so our tough stance on costs remains so we can not only deliver, but improve, the business case for Amrun to the broader Rio Tinto group and stakeholders.”

Construction of the highly anticipated accommodation village is well underway, with the new diner officially opened.

Some rooms are already being used, with the last of them scheduled for handover in the coming weeks.

Once complete, the village will boast some of the following features:

* Sporting areas – including tennis court, cricket pitch and an inside and outside gym;

* Recreational areas including pool, cards and darts rooms, music room, movie room, arcade centre;

* Traditional Owner area, named Chivarri (pronounced Shiv–ah –ree) by Traditional Owners, including a historical timeline of Wik-Waya history.

“We are committed to continuing to work closely with our community partners on developing the project into its transition to operations,” Mr van der Westhuizen said.

“Traditional Owners have named key infrastructure in Wik-Waya language, including first five years of mine blocks.” 

One of the most visible markers of the Amrun project is the construction of the wharf, which has been named Chith (pronounced Cheeth) by Traditional Owners. 

The wharf location has had an exclusion zone around it for fishermen and other marine users since beginning of the year, and progress on the wharf can be seen from afar.

To date, three of seven wharf jackets have been installed, while 75 per cent of the onshore Chith export facility conveyor has been installed.

Observant Weipa residents would have spotted the Happy Star heavy lift vessel in the harbour. 

It came from China to install the wharf jackets.

A Rio Tinto spokesperson said there was also significant progress in the bulk earthworks and process facilities packages around the Amrun Mine Centre.

One of the biggest projects is the Arraw Dam.

When constructed, Arraw Dam’s wall is 2.4km long and 12m high in the middle. 

The dam will hold 10.9 gigalitres of water once complete.

Ryan Kemp, who is working as a relief crew leader for Rio Tinto Weipa’s development team, said he hoped to work on the mine site in the future.

“I’ve worked for Rio Tinto here in Weipa for 12 years and keen for another few down at Amrun once it’s operational,” he said.

“The main driver for me is that I want to be a part of the team that starts the new mine and pulls the first dirt. To me, that’s exciting and a great milestone.

“I would go tomorrow if I could.”

Significantly, a huge amount of money has been spent on building the Amrun project.

By March this year, $1.62 billion had been spent with Australian suppliers on Amrun.

Of this, $1.1 billion was spent with Queensland businesses and $182 million with Cape York regional businesses.

In total, more than 780 Australian businesses have been engaged, with 537 of these from Queensland and 65 from the Western Cape. 

Rio Tinto said 15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses had been engaged directly and indirectly.

When Rio Tinto did an expression of interest internally, to see who wanted to travel to Amrun to work, more than 60 per cent said they would be interested.

“This is an exciting time for our people, business and community, with Amrun a key part of a strong and sustainable future for the region,” Mr van der Westhuizen said.