Pilbara problems hit Rio Tinto production

Ores taken from Rio Tinto’s Australian mines have been used to prove the effectiveness of low-carbon iron-making processes in a pilot plant.

Rio Tinto has admitted it entered the second half of 2021 behind the eight ball after disappointing June quarter results included a 9 per cent fall in iron ore production.

Rio Tinto chief executive officer Jakob Stausholm explained the company’s shortfalls, but said it aimed to be better going forward.

“The global economy, in particular China, recovered strongly and we are intensely focused on servicing our customers with as much product as we can,” Stausholm said.

“However, we faced some challenges in the first half notably at our Pilbara operations, which were impacted by replacement mine tie-ins and materially higher rainfall.”

Rio produced 75.9 million tonnes of iron ore in the Pilbara region of Western Australia for the second quarter of 2021 – 9 per cent lower than the same time last year.

At the same time, shipments from the region were down 12 per cent on last year’s second quarter, at just 76.3 million tonnes.

Ongoing pandemic impediments were partly to blame for these under par results.

“Heightened COVID-19 constraints, which resulted in numerous travel restrictions, added further pressure on the business and limited our ability to access additional people, particularly in Western Australia and Mongolia, in order to deliver operational improvements or maintenance initiatives and accelerate projects,” Stausholm said.

The company’s quarterly report added “ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and a tight labour market have further impacted our ability to access experienced contractors and particular skill sets.”

On operational safety, Stausholm continued conceding ground but was optimistic for the future of the company under his watch.

“Safety is our first priority and our performance in this area remains robust in challenging conditions. However, as identified shortly after my appointment, operationally we are not where we want to be,” he said.

“Our first-half performance has reaffirmed my belief that we have identified the right priorities to strengthen the business: to become the best operator, strive for impeccable ESG credentials, excel in development and secure a strong social licence.”


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