Rio Tinto hits iron ore shipping milestone

Cape Lambert wharf and tug harbour. Image: Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has shipped its 200 millionth tonne of iron ore from Cape Lambert in Western Australia to China as part of the Bao-HI Ranges joint venture with China Baowu Steel Group.

The iron ore sold under the partnership was mined at the Eastern Range mine in the Pilbara.

Along with this milestone, Rio Tinto ticked over its three billionth tonne of iron ore being shipped to China during September.

This comes 47 years after Rio Tinto delivered its first Pilbara iron ore to the nation.

“This is a very significant milestone for the joint venture partnership between Rio Tinto and China Baowu in the Pilbara which extends back almost 50 years,” Rio Tinto iron ore acting chief executive Ivan Vella said.

“Over that time the strength of our partnership has contributed to the successful growth of both our organisations.”

Rio Tinto has started to return its Pilbara operations to more normal operating conditions to pre-COVID-19 settings following interruption from the pandemic.

During the September quarter, Rio Tinto shipped 82.1 million tonnes of iron ore from the Pilbara, representing a 5 per cent drop against both the second quarter of this year and last year.

Bauxite production increased by 1 per cent compared with the third quarter of 2019, with Rio Tinto producing 14.5 million tonnes of the product.

Rio Tinto, however, produced 797,000 tonnes of aluminium during the September quarter, representing a 1 per cent increase year-on-year,

Copper production fell sharply by 18 per cent to 129,600 tonnes, which was attributed to lower grades at the Kennecott mine in Utah, the United States following an extended smelter shutdown.

Rio Tinto expects the Kennecott mine to be operating at full capacity by the end of this month, with its guidance remaining at 135,000 to 175,000 tonnes.

“We have delivered a good operational performance across most of our assets, catching up on planned maintenance activity, particularly in iron ore and continuing to adapt to new conditions as we learn to live with COVID-19,” Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques said.

“We have maintained our capex guidance and our 2020 production guidance across our key products.”

Rio Tinto has also continued to prioritise regaining the trust of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people following the tragic events at Juukan Gorge in May.

During October, the company wrote a letter to Pilbara Traditional Owners detailing the company’s intention to review and consult all heritage disturbance issues with them.

The company plans to review all activities that have the potential to impact heritage sites and not enforce any clauses that restrict Traditional Owners from raising concerns about heritage matters.

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