VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – Brazilian diversified miner Vale has reported its best first-quarter iron-ore sales ever despite production of the iron-making ingredient slipping somewhat during the three-month period.
The company reported that output during the quarter ended March 31 slipped 4.9% year-on-year to 81.95-million tonnes, reflecting management’s decision in the second quarter of 2017 to progressively cut lower-grade production in an attempt to position the company as a premium producer.
This helped the miner realise higher prices and margins in the period, while it also dealt with abnormally high volumes of rainfall in the period. The northern system, comprising its Carajás and giant new S11D mines, contributed 40.6-million tonnes of iron-ore – a record for the quarter, Vale said.
Iron-ore sales rose 9% year-on-year to 71.22-million tonnes of iron-ore in the first quarter.
Pellet output grew 2.9% to 12.78-million tonnes, while sales of the product increased by 4.3% to 13.13-million tonnes.
Vale has guided for full-year 2018 iron-ore output of 390-million tonnes.
Meanwhile, the diversified miner reported copper output falling 13.2% year-on-year to 93 300 t in the period, with sales slumping 12.6% to 87 700 t. In the quarter, the London Metals Exchange (LME) benchmark copper price averaged $6 961/t, an increase of 2% from the $6 808/t registered in the fourth quarter, being the strongest pricing quarter since the fourth quarter of 2014, the miner advised.
Nickel output fell 17.9% year-on-year to 58 600 t, with sales also down 19.7% year-on-year, also a function of management prioritising Class I nickel output, which dovetails into a 14.5% quarter-on-quarter rise in LME nickel prices to $13 276/t for the quarter.
Further, Vale is an important cobalt producer, with about 6% of market share and about 15% of market share when excluding the Democratic Republic of Congo. Vale’s cobalt production totalled 1 327 t in the first quarter, 68 t higher than the comparable year-earlier period, capturing the good momentum of the market, with LME cobalt prices increasing 27% quarter-on-quarter to the all-time record of $81 845/t, compared with $64 516/t in the fourth quarter of 2017.
The contained volume of gold as a by-product in the nickel and copper concentrates reached 113 000 oz in the period under review, 7.6% higher than in the same period of 2017.