Rio Tinto has reported delays to development at its Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, citing labour shortages.
The company’s September quarterly report stated COVID-19 restrictions and the ongoing lack of skilled workers had pushed first ore at the mine back to the first quarter of 2022.
In mid-2021, peak production was forecast at Gudai-Darri by early 2022.
Despite this, the report stated several key milestones were closing in on completion.
“Mining and operational readiness activities including recruitment are ongoing at the Gudai-Darri mine and construction of the rail spur is well advanced,” the report stated.
“Modest mobile crushing and screening facilities are being installed to supplement production output and partially mitigate delays.”
The mine is tipped to become Australia’s most technologically advanced mine, with a fleet of autonomous vehicles soon to roam the 43 million tonne per year operation.
The impacts of labour shortages have also affected Rio Tinto’s overall shipment targets, according to the quarterly report.
“We now expect Pilbara shipments to be 320 to 325 million tonnes (previously at the low end of 325 to 340 million tonnes) following modest delays to completion of the new greenfield mine at Gudai-Darri and the Robe Valley brownfield mine replacement project,” the report stated.
The Robe Valley replacement projects have been ongoing since late 2018 when Rio Tinto and joint venture partners Mitsui and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal invested $967 million to sustain production at the Mesa B, C and H deposits of Robe Valley.
The completion of this project remains scheduled for late-2021 which is later than originally planned.
Rio Tinto chief executive officer Jakob Stausholm said the company would stay positive despite the delays.
“The third quarter has demonstrated the resilience of our people in dealing with ongoing COVID-19 challenges,” he said.
“It has been another difficult quarter operationally and despite improving versus the prior quarter, we recognise the opportunity to raise our performance.”