Rio Tinto averages 34 autonomous trains a day in the Pilbara

Copyright © 2018 Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has reported that its AutoHaul autonomous trains in the Pilbara are now running at an average rate of 34 trains per day.

According to Rio Tinto, in its quarterly production statement released today, this equates to “290,000km (or 45 per cent of daily kilometres) completed in this mode”.

Rio Tinto expects to fully implement the AutoHaul program by the end of this year.

The company also reported that its Pilbara shipment guidance for 2018 of 330–340Mt remains on track despite a year-on-year (YoY) dip for the quarter.

Pilbara iron ore production was down 3 per cent from the equivalent 2017 period to 82.5Mt for the quarter, while shipments were down by 5 per cent to 81.9Mt.

The company stated that this decrease was due to planned maintenance and safety implementations following the death of a truck driver at the company’s Paraburdoo iron ore mine in August.

Internationally, iron ore production also saw a YoY fall at Rio Tinto’s Canadian operations. Rio Tinto is the majority owner of the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC), whose iron ore production was down 9 per cent from the third quarter of 2017 to 2.9Mt.

However, results for IOC saw a massive spike on the previous quarter (a 231 per cent leap) due to the settlement of a labour dispute that resulted in a two-month suspension of operations from March to May 2018.

The company also recorded a 32 per cent spike in YoY copper production across its four copper operations to 159,700t.

Results were largely boosted by the company’s high-grade return from the Kennecott operation in the United States, which improved 129 per cent in production to 59,100t for the quarter.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques said the copper results helped the company deliver “consistent operational performance in the third quarter”.

“We made strong strategic progress with the full exit from coal, the announcement of the additional [$US3.2 billion] of share buy-backs, and the signing of a binding conditional agreement to exit [the Grasberg gold-copper mine in Indonesia] for $3.5 billion,” he said.

“We continue to pursue all opportunities to improve productivity and drive enhanced cash flow generation.”

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