Wik-Waya Traditional Owner Henry Kelinda (left) with Rio Tinto Amrun Project area manager Alex Li and the first shipment from Amrun.
Wik-Waya Traditional Owner Henry Kelinda (left) with Rio Tinto Amrun Project area manager Alex Li and the first shipment from Amrun.

Rio ships first bauxite from Amrun

RIO Tinto's giant bauxite project near Weipa has made its first shipment as it prepares to ramp up production next year.

The $2.6 billion Amrun mine will replace bauxite from Rio's East Weipa mine and help the resources giant lift annual bauxite exports by around 10 million tonnes.

Amrun is expected to reach full production of 22.8 million tonnes next year. Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios said Amrun strengthens the company's position as a leading supplier of the material used to produce aluminium.

"We have the largest bauxite resources in the industry and are geographically well positioned to supply China's significant future import needs, as well as supporting our refinery and smelting operations in Australia and New Zealand," Mr Barrios said.

At a ceremony to celebrate the occasion on Western Cape York Peninsula in far north Queensland, more than 80,000 tonnes of bauxite was loaded on to the RTM Weipa bound for Rio Tinto's Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone.

The first shipment was made six weeks ahead of schedule. "The Amrun mine will ensure generational jobs for Queenslanders and build significantly on our 55-year history on the Western Cape," Mr Barrios said.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the project was a good example of a resource company working with local communities and suppliers while delivering on targets.

"Rio's commitment to hiring locally was demonstrated with 1,200 people employed at peak construction, and since project inception in May 2016, close to 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been employed by the project."

Mr Macfarlane said bauxite was one of the building blocks of the modern economy.

"It's used to produce aluminium, which goes into everything from soft drink cans in your fridge to frames for solar panels on your roof," he said.