Rio Tinto iron ore production bounces back

Rio Tinto’s Pilbara operations had a successful September quarter. © 2018 Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto has recovered from operational and weather challenges faced in the Pilbara earlier this year, with its September quarter iron ore production jumping 10 per cent on the previous period to 87.3 million tonnes.

Shipments to third parties from the Western Australian region were 5 per cent higher than this time last year, at 86.1 million tonnes.

Its aluminium production shrunk, however, by two per cent in the third quarter to 789,000 tonnes.

Rio Tinto attributes the commodity’s struggle to a preventive safety shutdown at one of the three potlines at the ISAL smelter in Iceland.

Earlier than planned pot relining at Rio Tinto’s Kitimat aluminium smelter in Canada also took a toll on the company production.

Rio Tinto expects its aluminium production this year to be at the lower end of its guidance of 3.2–3.4 million tonnes.

“The aluminium industry continues to face challenging conditions in global markets and policy uncertainty, reflected in declining prices,” Rio Tinto stated.

“We are focussing on enhancing the competitiveness of our smelters, including discussions with our Pacific stakeholders on energy pricing, to ensure the sustainability and global competitiveness of our Pacific smelters.”

The company’s bauxite production and shipment to third parties improved by 9 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively, on its results for the same time in the previous year. Production from non-managed joint ventures, however, was lower than the planned year to date.

Titanium dioxide slag production has continued to improve in performance since furnaces restarted in 2019, producing 321,000 tonnes, an 8 per cent growth on last year.

Rio produced 158,000 tonnes of copper, 15 per cent above the June quarter, reflecting higher grades at Kennecott and improved throughput at Escondida.

The company’s construction of the Oyu Tolgoi underground project in Mongolia remains on track, with the central heating plant, shaft two jaw crusher system and surface discharge conveyer completed since July 2019.

Guidance is relatively unchanged, with the exception of bauxite, which has been revised to 54 million tonnes from the previous 56 to 59 million tonnes, and aluminium, revised to 7.7 million tonnes from 8.1 to 8.4 million tonnes.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.