Rio Tinto cites increased bauxite production in latest quarterly results

Rio Tinto has released its 2017 second quarter production results, recording a high output particularly at its bauxite operations.

The company cited record bauxite production of 12.9 million tonnes, a seven per cent increase compared to the corresponding period in 2016. This was due to strong production at its Weipa mine in Queensland and Gove mine in the Northern Territory.

Gove production was 27 per cent higher than the second quarter of 2016 as a result of “continued de-bottlenecking of capacity”. Weipa production increased three percent compared to the same period last year – and 14 per cent higher than the first quarter of 2017 – after recovering from severe weather conditions caused by cyclone Debbie.

The company’s Pilbara iron ore shipments were 77.7 million tonnes in the second quarter, a one per cent increase from the first quarter of 2017. However, this was six per cent lower than production in the second quarter of 2016 as shipments were affected by rail track maintenance.

“Iron ore production was in line with last year, although iron ore shipments were impacted by an acceleration in our rail maintenance programme following poor weather in the first quarter,” Rio CEO Jean Sebastien Jacques said.

Iron ore shipments guidance for 2017 is around 330 million – previously between 330 and 340 million – after taking into consideration first half production and further rail maintenance in the second half to improve track conditions.

Mined copper production increased 48 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2017 – though six per cent lower than the corresponding period in 2016 – as the company’s Escondida operations in Chile continues ramp up activities following a labour strike.

Titanium dioxide slag production increased, rising 34 per cent compared to the second quarter of 2016, reflecting a higher market demand.

Hard coking coal production was 14 per cent less than the second quarter of 2016 due to the impact of cyclone Debbie on Hail Creek. Semi soft coking coal production was also reduced, dropping 31 per cent due to the low market demand. Thermal coal, however, increased

The second quarter of 2017 also saw Rio Tinto confirm Yancoal as the preferred buyer of its subsidiary Coal & Allied for $2.69 billion, with the sale expected to be complete in the third quarter of 2017.

Jacques added that the company will continue to focus on increasing cash flow from its operations.

“We believe our focus on capital discipline, maximising cash flow from operations, and driving productivity and portfolio shaping will continue to support the delivery of strong cash generation and shareholder returns,” he said.

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