Sunday 26th May, 2019

Rio Tinto reports increase in iron ore production

Iron ore rock formation. Photo: Shutterstock

Rio Tinto has reported its iron ore shipments from the Pilbara in WA reached a total of 338 million tonnes in 2018, two per cent higher than its 2017 results.

The company has forecast Pilbara shipments to range between 338-350 million tonnes this year.

During the last quarter for 2018, the company has also announced its deployment of its AutoHaul automated train, approved a $US2.6 billion (AUD 3.5 billion) Koodaideri iron ore replacement mine in the Pilbara and approved an investment of $US 1.55 billion (AUD 2.16 billion) at two projects to sustain production capacity at the Robe River Joint Venture.

Rio’s copper production also increased by 20 per cent to 177,800 tonnes in the December quarter compared with the same period last year. In total for 2018, 634,000 tonnes of copper was mined over the year, a 33 per cent increase higher than in 2017.

This performance was supported by Rio Tinto Kennecott’s production increase in Utah, United States, due largely to higher grades, as well as the Escondida mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Escondida is the world’s largest copper-producing mine managed by BHP and also owned by Rio Tinto (30 per cent interest).

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Aluminium production for the company was reported at 3.5 million tonnes, three per cent lower than 2017 due primarily to ongoing labour disputes at the non-managed Becancour smelter in Canada.

Labour disputes have also dampened Rio’s other production results, with Richard Bay Minerals contractors and its employees in South Africa contributing to a 15 per cent reduction in the company’s titanium dioxide production to 1.1 million tonnes, compared with the same period in 2017.

Rio Tinto chief executive, Jean-Sébastien Jacques, said the company has delivered solid operational performance in the final quarter of 2018.

“During the year, we further strengthened our asset portfolio, continuing to invest in high quality growth,” Jacques said.

“We completed disposals of $US8.6 billion (AUD 12 billion), including the Grasberg mine in Indonesia and our remaining coal assets.

“With a firm ‘value over volume’ focus and disciplined allocation of capital, we will continue to progress our strategic objectives and to deliver superior returns to shareholders in the short, medium and long term,” he said.