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io Tinto is an inter-

national mining

company with

its head offices in

London. It has global

operations, working

with a wide range of minerals and

rawmaterials such as aluminium,

copper, diamonds, opals, gold, borate,

titanium, salt, iron ore, coal and

uranium. One of Rio Tinto’s main iron

ore operations is in the Pilbara area

in Australia. Every year, hundreds of

millions of tonnes of high-grade iron

ore are shipped from two ports to

locations throughout the world.

Five years ago, all mining companies

engaging in the export of iron ore fines

were informed by the International

Maritime Organisation (IMO) that

these cargoes would be classified as

being liable to liquefy during ocean


The IMO’s decision was taken in

response to fatalities caused by the

capsizing of vessels carrying iron

ore fines, and reports suggesting

that the cause was the liquefaction

of cargoes with high moisture

contents as a result of the cyclic

motion of the vessel at sea. The IMO’s

intervention meant that shippers

would be required to determine the

transportable moisture limit (TML) for

their iron ore fines and ensure that

the moisture level of their cargoes

would be below the TML. As Rio Tinto

has shipped over 3 billion tonnes

in more than 50 years without

incident, the company wanted a

detailed investigation of how its

iron ore fines behave during ocean

transportation to ensure continued

safe transportation.

After conducting a survey of research

institutes throughout the world,

Rio Tinto decided to call in Deltares

and Marin from the Netherlands to

conduct the research.

The research assignment proved

to be quite challenging: the combi­

nation of ship movement, cargo

properties and liquefaction was

not well understood. The process

of intensive teamwork involving

Deltares, Marin and Rio Tinto Iron

Ore ultimately delivered the technical

and scientific evidence showing how

iron ore fines can be transported

safely. This evidence allowed the IMO

to reclassify iron ore fines on the

basis of sound scientific knowledge.

The principal benefit is that Rio Tinto

has confirmed that its cargoes of iron

ore fines are safe to transport and

that the company now knows why.

This result means that the company

can continue to ship its iron ore

fines as it has in the past without

the constraints of TML and the costs

associated with compliance.



Alliance between Deltares and industry produces innovative techniques

and creates new market opportunities for business.