Rio Tinto to survive the slowdown by making hay

While some miners have ventured into the coffee growing business, others, such as mining giant Rio Tinto (LON:RIO), are getting ready to start producing hay.

The diversified company will soon become Australia's newest farmer, reports The Australian (subs required), as Rio implements its pioneering Hamersley Agricultural Project, aimed to mitigate environmental impacts of its $1.2 billion expansion at the iron ore Marandoo mine.

The operation is located inside an excised portion of Western Australia's rugged Karijini National Park, where the world’s second-largest iron ore producer plans to set its hay-making business.

The expansion project is likely to release 35 gigalitres of water a year from the ground, “and Rio cannot dump that much water into the park's waterways in case it kills fragile grasslands and the fauna that they support,” the report says.

Rio Tinto will dig up to 180m below the surface of the earth to draw water down from the watertable and away from where it is mining. A total of 35km of pipeline, 22 pumps and 17 pivots will spray up to 7.5 million litres of water a day on to a seeded area of 85,000ha. The pivots can give the land a drenching equivalent to 13.6mm in 24 hours.

Located 35km north east of the town of Tom Price, the project will extend the Marandoo life by 16 years to 2030, said Rio in a statement, at its current mining rate of 15 million tonnes a year by developing the adjacent reserves below the water table.

The company is not wasting any resources. While the water extracted will be used to grow stock feed, the hay—in turn— will be given to cattle on the six stations Rio Tinto bought to ensure mine access.

Talk about diversified miner.