Mining giant Rio Tinto is in talks with Traditional Owner groups concerning the development of a new copper mine in Western Australia.
The Winu copper-gold project sits in the Paterson Range where Rio Tinto discovered the potential for a site almost seven years ago.
The development is currently projected to cover roughly 40,000 hectares, including plans for open pit mining below the water table.
Rio is currently in the process of seeking environmental approvals for the proposed mining hub, working with the local Nyangumarta and Martu communities to that end.
As part of the process, the company invited Nyangumarta leaders to inspect its Oyu Tolgoi operation in Mongolia to help them understand the impacts of an operating copper mine.
BHP chief executive of copper Bold Baatar suggested that the company was in no rush to develop Winu and that he intended to work with Traditional Owners’ timeline.
While Rio has not spoken to production forecasts, the mine is suggested to have a 41-year lifespan.
The project was dubbed Rio’s “copper whopper” back in 2017 after a flurry of land buy-up from the miner saw it increase its holding by tens of thousands of kilometres.
Drilling progress at the site was halted in 2020, which delayed Rio’s initial estimates for first production – until now.
Should the project receive an environmental tick of approval, first production could come as early as 2024.