Australia

Weipa Operation

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Categories

Overview

Mine TypeOpen Pit
Commodities
  • Bauxite
Mining Method
  • Truck & Shovel / Loader
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ShapshotWeipa operation consists of the deposits known as Andoom, East Weipa, Amrun, Norman Creek and North of Weipa.

Cessation of mining at East Weipa is expected in 2024.

Weipa operation also includes processing facilities, shiploaders, an export wharf, two ports, power stations, a rail network and ferry terminals.
Related AssetAmrun Mine

Owners

SourceSource
CompanyInterestOwnership
Rio Tinto plc 100 % Indirect
Rio Tinto Plc owns and operates the Weipa bauxite mine through subsidiary RTA Weipa Pty Ltd.

Contractors

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Deposit type

  • Bauxite
  • Laterite

Summary:

The rocks of the Cape York Peninsula are divided into two geological units: the sedimentary rocks on the western side of the peninsula and the igneous and metamorphic rocks exposed in the hills on the eastern side of the peninsula (the Coen Inlier).

The Cape York Peninsula bauxites are confined to a dissected laterite plateau, known officially as the Weipa Plateau on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula. The Weipa Plateau is one of three geomorphologic land units that are of particular interest to the geology of the bauxite and kaolin resources. The other two units are the Merluna Plain and the Mapoon Plain.
• The Weipa Plateau is a low plateau, usually no more than a few tens of metres above sea level and has been dissected by various river systems resulting in a series of irregularly shaped islands. It is intensely weathered to a depth of 20 m to 30 m with the upper part of the weathered material reconstituted into various nodules as well as some partially cemented rocks. The flatness of the plateau has meant it has been immune to erosion other than by rivers eating away at the sides. Much of the plateau’s volume was removed in solution in the groundwater, which is also responsible for the formation of the bauxite. The sedimentary rocks of the Weipa Plateau fall into two categories:
- The Rolling Downs Group Sediments; and
- The Bulimba Formation Sediments (Weipa Beds).

• These two groups of sediments are eroded and weathered to form the Weipa bauxites. The different
sediments resulted in different types of bauxite formations

• The Bulimba Formation sediments lie on top of the Rolling Downs Group and occupy channels that cut down into them. The Rolling Downs Group were uplifted above sea level and weathered before the Bulimba Formation sediments deposited on them. The river sediments are less homogeneous than the marine ones. Deposition occurred as short erratic events rather than a slow continuous one and a changing sea level resulted in a mixture of sands and clays. The greater variability in the sediments is reflected in greater local variability in grade of the Weipa type bauxites.

• Andoom type bauxites are derived from shallow marine sediments that are fine grained, with very little quartz, and this material is generally screened at 0.3 mm. The Weipa type bauxites are derived from river deposited sediments that are coarse grained, with abundant quartz, and this material is therefore screened at 1.7 mm. Drilling at Amrun suggests a more intensely braided river system allowing more mixing between the Bulimba and Rolling Downs formations. This fits with the optimum screen size of the area being between the Andoom and Weipa deposits. Amrun is currently screened at 0.6 mm

• The Cape York Peninsula bauxites are thin, tabular deposits that vary from zero to 10 m in thickness and are continuous laterally for many kilometres. The unconsolidated pisolites are generally overlain by 0.5 m topsoil and sit on an ironstone base.

• The rocks of the Bulimba Formation and Rolling Downs Group have been converted to bauxite via a continuum of weathering. An annual high rainfall and a geologically stable environment has provided the perfect ingredients for a world-class bauxite deposit to form over many millions of years. A deep saprolitic zone overlain by a classic mottled zone below the bauxite mineralisation attests to this.

• The process of bauxitisation involves the conversion of kaolinite to the bauxite minerals gibbsite and boehmite. The principal influence on the process is the composition, supply and movement of groundwater. The pH of the groundwater is lowered during the process of bauxitisation and we note that the process is still ongoing as we see a low pH regularly throughout the ground water monitoring bores across the RTA mining leases. To a lesser extent there are organic influences such as vegetation, and possibly burrowing organisms and temperature.

• The dissolution of both kaolin and quartz control the distribution of silica grades in the deposits. The combination of kaolin and quartz distributions results in a typical vertical chemical profile that is usually found throughout the deposits and appears to be independent of the bauxite thickness i.e. the same vertical grade trend is found in both thin and thick bauxites. The typical vertical grade profile for silica is high silica at the top of the bauxite, which quickly drops to a much lower silica value that plateaus for the majority of the profile and then rises quickly back to high silica values again right at the base of the bauxite profile. As alumina is left behind by the dissolution of kaolinite, the typical vertical grade profile for alumina is almost the inverse of silica. The relationships between the genetic processes and the resulting grade profiles are displayed in the figure on the next page.

Reserves

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Mining Methods

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Comminution

Crushers and Mills

Milling equipment has not been reported.

Processing

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Production

CommodityUnits202320222021202020192018201720162015
Bauxite kt  ....  Subscribe  ....  Subscribe  ....  Subscribe  ....  Subscribe35,41130,43730,89829,42727,663
All production numbers are expressed as ore.

Operational metrics

Metrics2023202220212015
Annual production capacity  ....  Subscribe  ....  Subscribe  ....  Subscribe28 Mt of bauxite ore

Production Costs

Commodity production costs have not been reported.

Heavy Mobile Equipment

Fleet data has not been reported.

Personnel

Mine Management

Job TitleNameProfileRef. Date
....................... Subscription required ....................... Subscription required Subscription required May 2, 2024
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....................... Subscription required ....................... Subscription required Subscription required May 2, 2024

EmployeesYear
...... Subscription required 2017

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