RIO Tinto will invest $C10 million ($10.1m) into a new underground research centre in Canada in an expansion of its global program.

As part of Rio’s global program, Mine of the Future, the mining giant plans to conduct a full-scale performance-verification trial in 2012 at its Northparkes, NSW copper and gold mine.

The trial in NSW will be the first of three new underground excavation systems.

Rio’s spend in Canada follows a $C10 billion commitment to the country by Brazil’s Vale, a week after BHP Billiton officially pulled its $40bn hostile bid for Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.

The $C10m outlay in Canada will be invested over five years, which Rio said would complete a suite of five global long-term Rio Tinto research centres.

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Rio Tinto also has research centres in Sydney, Perth, Queensland and London.

“In order to satisfy the global demand for minerals, we will need to go deeper to access new resources,” said Rio’s head of innovation, John McGagh.

“There is no other mining operation in the world attempting to take the approach that we are on this scale.”

The new Canadian Centre for Underground Mine Construction will be based at the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation in Sudbury, Ontario. Rio said the centre would focus on innovative rapid mine construction and ground control for mining at depth.

The global mining major said the work at the Canadian centre would assist its development of new excavation systems through The Mine of the Future program, which focuses on improving the construction and operation of underground mines.


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