The government of Western Australia (WA) has approved plans by Rio Tinto to increase production at two of its Pilbara iron ore operations, WA Premier and State Development Minster Colin Barnett announced on Thursday. The approval has cleared the way for the creation of more than 760 new jobs in the Pilbara region, the premier said. The expansion at Rio Tinto's West Angelas and Western Turner Syncline mines in Pilbara is estimated to cost 880 million AU dollars (797 million U.S. dollars). Barnett said the West Angelas expansion, which will lift its iron ore production from 29 million tons per annum (mtpa) to 35 mtpa, was another sign of confidence in the Pilbara resources sector. "This expansion is expected to extend the mine's life by approximately 13 years and will involve a 680-million-AU-dollar ( 616 million U.S. dollars) capital investment by Rio Tinto and its Robe River joint venture partners," Barnett said in a statement. He said Rio Tinto is also expected to spend around 200 million AU dollars (181 million U.S. dollars) to increase production at its Western Turner Syncline mine from 25 mtpa to 30 mtpa. "These projects are part of Rio Tinto's plans to increase its annual iron ore production in Pilbara towards 360 million tons and demonstrate the ongoing commitment of the company and its Robe River joint venture partners to their WA operations," Barnett said.