Amrun to drive Australia’s global bauxite strength

Rio Tinto’s $2.6 billion Amrun mine in Queensland is cementing Australia’s standing as the world’s top producer of bauxite, according to a globally-focused report on the sector by Fitch.

Part of Rio Tinto’s wider Weipa operation in Queensland, production started at Amrun in December 2018 and is ramping up to a full production rate of 22.8 million tonnes a year.

Another key Australian bauxite project mentioned by Fitch that will come online in 2019 is Metallica Minerals’ Urquhart project in Far North Queensland, which was granted a mining lease in January 2018.

Metallica is yet to start production at Urquart, with construction of a haul road from the deposit to Cape York Peninsula continuing, but once completed the project is expected to produce 6.5 million tonnes of bauxite in 2019.

Metro Mining’s Bauxite Hills mine to the north of Weipa, while not mentioned in the report, recommenced production in April following a planned hiatus that started in December 2018 to counter the Queensland wet season. The company has a revised production target of 3.5 million tonnes for the 2019 calendar year.

Metro is awaiting the results of a stage two definitive feasibility study (DFS) to ramp up Bauxite Hills production capacity to six million tonnes a year. This DFS is expected to be finalised by the end of the June quarter.

Fitch stated that Australia’s growth was supported by a “steady project pipeline” that represented 12 of 29 new bauxite projects in the company’s mining database, with overall year-on-year growth in Australia predicted at 15 per cent for 2019, up from four per cent in 2018.

The report added that bauxite accounted for less than five per cent of Australia’s mining value, but the country as a whole accounted for 28.8 per cent of global output.

Fitch also cited Indonesia, Guinea and India as other countries that are key producers. Each of them is expected to drive global production through operational ramp ups and new projects that will come online.

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