Rio automation project helps increase iron ore output

Copyright © 2018 Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has met its 2017 Pilbara iron ore shipments target after delivering a 3 per cent year-on-year increase during the December quarter.

The miner, which released its latest production results today, shipped 90 million tonnes (Mt) in the fourth quarter of 2017, taking its total shipments for the year to 330.1Mt, which was in line with guidance.

Its Pilbara operations produced 87.9Mt of iron ore during the fourth quarter, also a 3 per cent improvement on the same quarter in 2016.

In an ASX announcement, Rio said the fourth quarter increase in production reflected ongoing productivity improvements being made to the rail network, along with increased flexibility across the infrastructure system.

The company continued to make progress on the automation of its Pilbara train system, with greater than 60 per cent of all kilometres now completed in autonomous mode with a driver on board for supervision.

Rio chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques said the miner’s overall business performed well in the fourth quarter, finishing the year in line with guidance across all major products.

“We shipped 90Mt of iron ore from our world-class Pilbara assets, a record quarter which demonstrates the system’s growing flexibility,” Jacques said.

Rio’s 2017 bauxite production of 50.8Mt was 6 per cent higher than 2016 and in line with guidance. It also produced 3.6Mt of aluminium after generally strong performance offset lower output at the Boyne and Sohar operations.

At Rio’s copper operations, the company produced 478,100t, which was 9 per cent lower than 2016 due to the impact of a strike at the Escondida mine in Chile.

Rio’s hard coking coal output dropped 5 per cent on 2016 because of the affect Cyclone Debbie had on operations in first quarter 2017.

The sale of Rio’s Coal & Allied business unit meant the company’s semi-soft coking coal and thermal coal production fell by 51 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively, on the previous year’s performance.

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