Rio Tinto flags production delay at Winu

Rio Tinto has pushed its production timeframe at the Winu copper-gold project in Western Australia by a year despite drilling progress made in 2020.

The company, which previously expected to deliver first ore in 2023, now anticipates this milestone to be achieved in 2024.

Rio Tinto stated that it was engaging with the Traditional Owners about the project, with heritage surveys, monitoring and agreement making continuing into this year.

Meanwhile, construction continues to progress at the company’s Western Turner Syncline phase two iron ore project in Western Australia, with the project maintaining its forecast first ore this year.

It also expects to deliver first ore from the Robe River joint venture (JV) projects with Mitsui & Co. and Nippon Steel in Western Australia this year.

Rio Tinto is on track to ramp up production at the Koodaideri iron ore project early next year.

The company’s iron ore shipments from its Pilbara mines in the December quarter have also soared on the last quarter of 2019 despite weather and COVID-19 disruptions.

It delivered nearly 89 million tonnes of iron ore during the December quarter, representing a 2 per cent rise on the prior corresponding period and an 8 per cent jump on the previous quarter.

This reflects the impacts of Cyclone Damien in the first quarter and COVID-19 disruptions which led to the deferral of maintenance to the second half.

Despite the solid result, Rio Tinto is keeping its expectations on its Pilbara iron ore shipments stable this year, setting a guidance of 325-340 million tonnes compared with the 331 million tonnes shipped in 2020.

Rio Tinto stated that the future impact on its Pilbara iron ore operations, mine developments and heritage approach from the reform of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA) remained unknown.

The company intends to engage with Traditional Owners regarding plans for mining activities and work through scenarios in “an iterative manner”, stating that it has a broad range of options available given the flexibility in its Pilbara network.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm added that the company was working to restoring trust with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people.

“We are also developing additional measures to strengthen our partnerships with Traditional Owners, including a commitment to modernise and improve agreements, particularly in the Pilbara,” he said.

“However, I do not underestimate the time and effort it will take, genuinely working together with our partners, in order for Rio Tinto to drive the changes necessary to help restore trust and rebuild our reputation.”

Rio Tinto expects a robust market in China for its iron ore and copper products, with the country’s industrial sector said to have returned to pre-COVID-19 levels through stimulus packages.

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