Rio Tinto has loaded its first shipment of iron ore from its newly expanded port, rail, and mine operations in Western Australia.
According to the miner this shipment marks the commencement of the commissioning of the expansion program which is aimed at increasing overall capacity of its iron ore operations to 290 million tonnes per year.
Rio's iron ore chief, Andrew Harding, said "the 290 project is the largest integrated mining project in Australia; the delivery of 290 ahead of its original schedule and within budget is a testament to our focus on value driven growth of our low-cost operations".
"Given the demanding operating environment in Western Australia over the recent period, this stands as a noteworthy achievement."
The miner is now focused on the ramp-up to full production rates, and the gradual integration of its 'Mine of the Future' automation and remote control program.
The second phase of the expansion will see capacity increase to 360 million tonnes annually.
On top of this are additional options for mine capacity growth including incremental tonnes for low-cost productivity improvements, expansion of existing mines, and the potential development of new mines.
Rio's first shipment left on the Tai Shan, a cape class vessel carrying around 165 000 tonnes of Pilbara Blend fines.
It is bound for Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation's Kimistu works in Japan.