(Reuters) - Rio Tinto and its joint venture partners, Mitsui & Co <8031.T> and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal <5401.T>, will spend about $1.55 billion (1.23 billion pounds) to sustain production capacity at two iron ore projects in Western Australia, the global miner said on Monday.
Rio will invest a total of $820 million to develop the projects at the Robe River Joint Venture in the mineral rich Pilbara region, the Anglo-Australian miner said in a statement.
Rio said the investments would enable it to sustain production of the Pilbara Blend brand of iron ore. subject to approvals, construction of both projects was expected to start next year.
The move comes as Rio has been selling off its coal assets, with a view to focussing on its core commodities, such as iron ore.
The work is expected to create about 1,200 jobs, the miner said. Rio Tinto owns 53 percent of the Robe River Joint Venture.
The company's Australian shares were down about 0.2 percent, in a broader market down 0.6 percent <.AXJO>.
(Reporting by Aditya Soni and Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)