Rio Tinto Minerals announced today that it has secured approval for an $11 million expansion program to boost salt production at its Lake MacLeod Operation, near Carnarvon.The expansion program will deliver an additional 500,000 tonnes, taking total production to 1.9 million tonnes of salt annually; an amount that falls within the company's approved operating licence.The project will help increase Rio Tinto Mineral's capacity to meet growing international demand for salt, and will boost local employment opportunities. Rio Tinto Minerals is the world's largest exporter of high quality solar salt, marketed under the Dampier Salt brand. Operations are located at Port Hedland, Dampier and Lake MacLeod. This 500,000 tonne increase will bring capacity to more than 9 million tonnes per annum.According to Rio Tinto Minerals Vice President, Asia Pacific Operations, Denise Goldsworthy, increasing the Lake MacLeod operation to its approved capacity will significantly advance the long-term salt assets the company harvests in Western Australia. "Our operational team's efforts to improve performance have paid off. Their achievements enabled us to gain approval for the project, despite high construction costs in Western Australia," she said.The A$11million program will include refurbishing existing and establishing new crystallisers within operational areas previously used for growing salt. Funding will also be allocated to upgrade a pump station, purchase spare pumps and build a replacement bore water storage dam."It's an exciting time for Rio Tinto Minerals and it's good news for Carnarvon with the creation of more jobs in the local employment market," said Mrs Goldsworthy. "We will begin the process for tendering out this construction work over the next few months, creating an opportunity for local contractors to get involved in this exciting growth period for our business," she said.Work is expected to commence immediately. The entire project will take 18 months before the additional salt stock is ready for harvest in late 2008.
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