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Rio invests locally in iron-ore rail carts

Image shows iron-ore train and carts

Photo by Reuters

13th June 2023

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia


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PERTH ( – Mining major Rio Tinto on Tuesday announced a partnership with Gemco Rail to bring local iron-ore rail car manufacturing and bearing maintenance to the Pilbara region in an industry-first.

The partnership will enable Gemco Rail to expand its existing operations to establish the first-ever rail ore car manufacturing and maintenance facility in the Pilbara, creating new jobs, increasing spend with local and Indigenous businesses and supporting local economic growth.

Rio will likely invest A$150-million to purchase 100 locally built ore rail cars over six years as well as continued investment in bearing refurbishment over ten years, to support the company’s Pilbara operations.

The first 40 ore cars will be built at Gemco Rail’s existing facility in Forrestfield, while the company establishes an additional facility in Karratha.

Once this new facility is operational, Gemco Rail is expected to build an average of 10 ore cars a year, replacing ore cars as they are retired from Rio’s existing fleet. The new Karratha facility will also support the supply of new and reconditioned ore car bearings from the Pilbara in an industry-first.

This partnership has been developed by Rio, Gemco Rail and Qiqihar Railway Rolling Stock (QRRS) and supported by the Western Australian state government through a A$6.9-million investment under the Local Manufacturing Investment Fund.

The first Western Australian-built rail car is expected to be delivered in 2024 and the Karratha-based facility is expected to be established by the end of 2024, subject to the availability of a suitable property.

Rio said in a statement on Tuesday that the new Karratha facility woud reduce the need to transport iron-ore cars and bearings between the Pilbara and Perth, removing an estimated 150 truck journeys from Western Australian roads and 300 t/y of CO2.

Rio Tinto operates about 14 000 ore cars across its Pilbara rail network. On average the company orders 10 new iron-ore cars each year. Each ore car can hold an estimated 118 t of iron-ore.

“We aim to create enduring partnerships that generate positive impacts in the regions where we operate and are proud to be leading the way in bringing iron-ore car manufacturing and maintenance to the Pilbara,” Rio Tinto iron-ore CEO Simon Trott said.

“We’ve taken our original scope to build iron-ore cars in Western Australia and enhanced it to see the construction of ore cars in the same region as our operations. This will bring a new industry to the Pilbara, creating jobs and providing more opportunities for local and Indigenous businesses.”

Gemco parent company Engenco CEO Dean Draper on Tuesday said that in securing this opportunity with Rio, Gemco Rail was proud to use its experience and capabilities to re-establish the manufacture of iron-ore rail cars in Western Australia.

“Gemco Rail’s investment in the Pilbara reflects our long-term commitment to customers and communities in Western Australia. We acknowledge the conscious efforts of Rio Tinto to increase their spend with Western Australia-based suppliers, our supply partner QRRS, and the support from the Western Australian government in facilitating this investment in Karratha.”

Western Australian Premier Roger Cook added that the government was is ‘absolutely committed’ to rebuilding local manufacturing capability, and were getting on with the job of delivering on this commitment.

“Not only will the agreement create jobs and diversify the economy, it will help revitalise and future-proof local manufacturing in Western Australia, including in the Pilbara.”

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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