Huge Pilbara copper find talk of the town
Just what projects did Rio Tinto chief Jean-Sebastien Jacques have in mind when he suggested this week that governments should become joint venture partners in mines if they wanted to increase their financial returns from them?Some took it as a message to those foreign governments which are known for wanting a full pound of flesh for allowing the likes of Rio to have their wicked way with their resources. But more conspiratorial types are wondering whether JS had half an eye on the huge copper discovery which, rumour has it, Rio has made in the Pilbara.
The talk in mining circles is that the find is Rio’s biggest in 25 years, meaning it is larger than Mt Isa. The latest bout of speculation has been fuelled by Rio’s application for a licence to build an airstrip on the site, about 500km inland from Eighty Mile Beach, halfway between Port Hedland and Broome.
The site already hosts a substantial camp and has been subject to extensive drilling over a large area. But it is a remote part of the world and will need a lot of expensive supporting infrastructure, something that would raise the old thorny issue about what is a mining company’s responsibility and what should be built by the State.
Those peddling the conspiracy theory say this is where JS’s new funding model might come into its own, in some form or other.
That is, or course, if Rio has a big find on its hands.