Rio Tinto to complete $75m refinery maintenance

Queensland Alumina Limited operations. Image: Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto has pushed ahead with $75 million of planned maintenance shutdown work at its two alumina refineries in Gladstone, Queensland, this year.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the mining giant conducted shutdowns at the Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL) and Yarwun refineries by using locally based workforces and stringent screening and controls.

This resulted in the recruitment of more than 500 additional contract workers to complete the site maintenance.

The Yarwun refinery was shut from June to October to repair the digestion, boiler and calciner areas of the plant, which was done simultaneously to limit impacts to production.

To maintain the necessary social distancing requirements, the shut times have been limited to day shifts for a lower intensity but longer shutdown.

“The complexity of the shut at Yarwun is an opportunity to re-think the way we do things and explore innovation in our systems,” Rio Tinto Yarwun general manager Mark Gilmore said.

“We have found ways to safely deliver our shuts during challenging times. This is good for our refineries, our local businesses and the community.”

The QAL work, which is valued at $10.6 million, included technical upgrades to the boiler management system in one of the site’s 10 boilers.

Rio Tinto hired 140 local contractors to work day and night shifts since August to deliver the shutdown, with the boiler scheduled to return to service next month.

The company spent around $7.8 million with Gladstone suppliers to complete the boiler upgrade.

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