Fortescue is moving ahead on the $1.7 billion Eliwana iron ore mine and rail project in the Pilbara.

The project involves 143km of rail, a new 30Mt/y dry ore processing facility and other associated infrastructure.

It proponents say it will create 1900 construction jobs and 500 full-time positions once operations start.

Fortescue says it is looking to start production at Eliwana in December 2020, supporting the introduction of the company’s premium 60 per cent iron grade product.

Fortescue Metals Group CEO Elizabeth Gaines said Eliwana will help maintain the miner’s low-cost status.

Eliwana will provide “greater flexibility to capitalise on market dynamics while maintaining a minimum 170Mt per annum production rate over 20 years”, she said.

“The project allows us to commence the supply of Fortescue Premium product to the market from existing operations in the second half of FY19 with volumes increased as Eliwana ramps up to full production.”

The Eliwana project will use the latest technology including autonomous trucks, while also saving through design efficiency and the redeployment of existing assets.

The company says it will divide its development costs over the next three financial years - $US165 million in 2019, $US760 million in 2020 and $US350 million in 2021.

“The project is important to Fortescue and the state of Western Australia, creating up to 1900 jobs during construction, 500 full-time site positions once operational and the continued flow of benefits to our communities and the state economy,” Ms Gaines said.

Fortescue has completed its final feasibility study for the project and will soon launch the detailed design phase. It also requires two environmental approvals and one for a mining proposal.