Rio Tinto plans to invest US$395 million in a seawater desalination plant in the Pilbara, Western Australia, to support future water supply for the company’s coastal operations and communities in the region.
The proposed Dampier Seawater Desalination Plant, which remains subject to Commonwealth and State Government approvals, will be located within Rio Tinto’s existing iron ore port operations at Parker Point.
Port of Dampier was first established in the mid-1960s to support the development of the Pilbara region resources sector, with the first shipment of iron ore leaving the Port in August 1966. Port of Dampier has since expanded and now handles the following commodities: anhydrous ammonia, condensate, diesel, iron ore, LNG, LPG, petroleum, salt and cargo. Infrastructure tied into the Port of Dampier is extensive and spans 350 km inland to the Pilbara iron ore deposits and 200 km offshore to the oil and gas fields of the Northwest Shelf.
The location of the Proposed Action's desalination plant facility is on an area of reclaimed land. The proposed intake infrastructure is located within an existing redundant power station cooling-water intake pond. Due to the existing road infrastructure around the Port area and the existing road tracks adjacent to water transfer pipelines, transport to, from and around the site will be via existing public and private roads.
The composition of benthic communities and habitats (BCH) within the Dampier Archipelago has been well documented by a variety of studies during the past 20 years. The nearest coral community is an artificial reef approximately 1.2 km to the east of the discharge point. This reef will not be impacted by the plant, given the distance from the proposed discharge. The nearest seagrass is more than 5 km away to the west of East Intercourse Island and the nearest mangroves are more than 3.5 km to the west of the discharge in King Bay.
The plant will have an initial nominal capacity of four gigaliters annually with the potential for this to increase to eight gigaliters in the future. The project includes construction of a new supply pipeline to connect to the existing water network.
Subject to relevant approvals, construction is expected to commence in 2024 with the facility expected to be operational and producing water in 2026. At the peak of construction, the project is expected to support approximately 300 jobs.
Rio Tinto has been engaging with all associated Traditional Owners and Custodians in relation to the project and would like to thank the Ngarluma people, on whose Traditional lands the plant will be constructed, and Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the five Traditional Owner groups in the region.
Water from the plant is planned to be transferred to the Water Corporation-owned and operated West Pilbara Water Supply Scheme, where it will be distributed to Rio Tinto’s coastal communities and operations.
The plant will be constructed on previously reclaimed land and will use reverse osmosis to filter salt and other impurities from ocean water. It will utilize existing infrastructure at the company’s Parker Point operations and is near the existing Water Corporation network, helping to minimize disturbance to the local environment.