Must-know: Rio Tinto’s material transportation infrastructure

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Nov. 21 2019, Updated 9:40 p.m. ET

Rio transports its materials

In this part of the series, we’ll discuss how Rio Tinto (RIO) moves its mined ore to the ports and export markets through different parts of its infrastructure.

Supply chain

Conveyor

For some of Rio’s mines, the ore is directly transported to the railways. For other mines—like its Channar, Western Turner Syncline, and Yandicoogina mines—the ore is moved by conveyor to Rio’s nearest rail infrastructure. Then Rio’s railway line takes the iron ore to the ports.

Rail infrastructure

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Rio owns and operates the Hamersley and Robe River railways. They span ~1,700 kilometers. They transport iron ore that’s mined from its 12 operating mines—including Rio Tinto’s joint venture mines at Hope Downs—in the Pilbara region to Port Dampier and Cape Lambert. Each train is more than two kilometers long. Each train has a capacity of ~26,000 tons.

BHP Billiton (BHP) owns and operates the Mt. Newman and Goldsworthy railways. They span ~800 kilometers. They join BHP’s mines with Port Hedland. As of 2013, Fortescue Metals Group (or FSUGY) owned and operated ~250 kilometers of rail line connecting its two mines—at Cloudbreak and Christmas Creek—to Port Hedland.

Port infrastructure

Rio uses Port Dampier and Cape Lambert. Port Dampier is the second largest iron ore port in Australia after Port Hedland. BHP and FSUGY use it for iron ore export. Port Dampier also provides port services for the salt, oil, gas, and fertilizer industries.

The port has five separate iron ore loading berths. A berth is a designated location in a port or harbor. The location is used for vessels when they aren’t at sea. Rio operates all five of the berths.

Cape Lambert is the third largest Australian iron ore exporting port. It’s operated exclusively by Rio Tinto.

Landside logistics

Blending ore from different mines is done at the port. Rio’s iron ore exports through Dampier normally consist of Pilbara blend lump and fines.

RIO and BHP’s mines are closer to China. China is the largest seaborne customer. As a result, their freight costs are lower compared to Vale SA (VALE). VALE transports iron ore all the way from Brazil to China.

Cliffs Natural Resources’ (CLF) ~60% production is for the domestic market only. Iron ore is usually shipped to the Asian markets by its Australian unit.

The SPDR Metals and Mining (XME) gives investors exposure to all the stocks mentioned above.

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