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Major miner Rio Tinto has partnered with Gemco Rail to bring local iron ore rail car manufacturing and bearing maintenance to the Pilbara region in Western Australia.

The partnership is an industry first and is expected to help create new jobs, increase spend with local and Indigenous businesses and supporting local economic growth.

Rio Tinto is expected to invest approximately $150 million to purchase 100 locally built ore rail cars over a six year period, as well as continue investing in bearing refurbishment over a ten year period.

The first 40 ore cars will be built at Gemco Rail’s existing facility in Forrestfield, while it establishes an additional facility in Karratha. Once the Karratha facility is operational, Gemco Rail is expected to build an average of ten ore cars per annum.

The first WA-built rail car is expected to be delivered in mid-2024, while the Karratha-based facility is expected to be established by the end of 2024.

Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Simon Trott said the company aims to create enduring partnerships which generate positive impacts in the regions where it operates.

“We’ve taken our original scope to build iron ore cars in Western Australia and enhanced it to see the construction of ore cars in the same region as our operations,” Trott said.

“This will bring a new industry to the Pilbara, creating jobs and providing more opportunities for local and Indigenous businesses.”

Engenco (Gemco Rail’s parent company) chief executive officer Dean Draper said that Gemco is proud to utilise its experience and capabilities to re-establish the manufacture of iron ore rail cars in WA.

“We acknowledge the conscious efforts of Rio Tinto to increase their spend with WA based suppliers, our supply partner QRRS, and the support of the Western Australian government in facilitating this investment in Karratha,” Draper said.