Rio Tinto boosts iron ore shipments as Pilbara mines lift output

Rio Tinto has cited a three per cent increase in Pilbara iron ore shipments in 2016 compared to 2015.

The company’s 2016 fourth quarter production results reported Pilbara iron ore shipments of 327.6 million tonnes, with its Pilbara iron ore production – at 329.5 million tonnes – up six per cent compared to 2015.

Rio attributed the increased production at its Pilbara operations to the ramp up of expanded mines, improvements in operational productivity and lack of disruption from weather events.

It highlighted that the Nammuldi Incremental Tonnes project, with a 10 million tonne capacity, delivered its second phase six weeks ahead of schedule. The project’s capacity will be further increased by the Silvergrass iron ore project’s 10 million tonne capacity, further boosting production. First ore is expected in the second half of 2017.

“We have delivered a strong operational performance in 2016, underpinned by our drive for efficiency and maximising cash flow,” Rio Tinto chief executive officer Jean Sebastien Jacques said.

“Our disciplined approach remains in place in 2017, with the continued focus on productivity, cost reduction and commercial excellence.”

The company expects its 2017 Pilbara shipments to reach between 330-340 million tonnes.

Aluminium production had the biggest increase compared to 2015, rising 10 per cent, mainly attributed to the Kitimat smelter, which produced at nameplate capacity since April last year.

Rio’s bauxite production had a nine per cent rise compared to 2015 with hard coking coal recording a four per cent increase.

Similarly, copper production was four per cent higher than in 2015. Rio particularly highlighted the ramp up in production at its Oyu Tolgoi underground project in Mongolia during the fourth quarter. With 2000 personnel – almost 90 per cent Mongolians – the project is progressing works on its accommodation camp and other mine facilities.

The only decreases recorded were in semi-soft and thermal coal, as well as titanium, dropping four per cent each in 2016.