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Major miner Rio Tinto is planning to invest US$395 million in a seawater desalination plant located in the Pilbara region of WA.

Desalination plants filter salt and other impurities from seawater to create drinkable freshwater using reverse osmosis.

The proposed Dampier seawater desalination plant remains subject to Commonwealth and State Government approvals and is expected to be located within the existing Rio Tinto iron ore port operations at Parker Point.

The plant will use exisiting infrastructure at the Parker Point site and is located near the exisiting Water Corporation network to help minimise disturbance to the local environment.

The plant will have an initial capacity of four gigalitres annually, with the potential to expand to eight gigalitres in the future.

Construction of the plant is expected to commence in 2024, with water production set for 2026.

“We know that water is a scarce resource, particularly in the Pilbara,” Rio iron ore chief executive Simon Trott said.

“We are pleased that this desalination plant will help to secure future supply for Rio Tinto supplied communities in the West Pilbara as well as our coastal operations.”

Water from the plan will be transferred to the Water Corporation-owned and operated West Pilbara Water Supply Scheme, and then distributed to Rio Tinto’s coastal operations and communities.

The major miner has been engaging with Traditional Owners and Custodians and have thanked the Ngarluma people and the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation.