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Asbestos fears over Rio railway line

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A council in Western Australia’s Pilbara region has expressed concern over Rio Tinto’s plan to build a railway line near the asbestos-ridden ghost town of Wittenoom.

As part of Rio’s proposed Koodaideri iron ore mine, the company have submitted documents for a 167 km railway line to be built which would connect to the company’s Dampier-Tom Price line.

While the track would avoid the former town, Rio plan to construct part of the track through the wider Wittenoom asbestos management areas, The West Australian reported.

The Shire of Ashburton is concerned workers could be at risk to exposure, calling for indemnity from litigation if the track goes ahead.

According to documents filed by Rio, the $3.5 billion project is expected to produce 35 million tonnes of ore a year, before a ramp up by 2030 which will see that figure increase to 70 million tonnes a year

New roads, power sources, water infrastructure and FIFO village facilities would also be need to be constructed.

The Environment Protection Authority is currently assessing the project before making a recommendation to the Minister for Environment Albert Jacob.

If Rio choose to pursue the project construction is expected to begin in the second half of 2014 before first production in 2016.

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