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Rio adjusts some of its full year targets

19th July 2023

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia


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PERTH ( – Diversified major Rio Tinto has continued to increase its iron-ore production in the Pilbara, with the miner now expecting full year production to be at the upper-end of the guided 320-million to 335-million tonnes.

Iron-ore production from the Pilbara reached 81.3-million tonnes in the quarter ended June, up 3% on the previous corresponding period, and up 2% on the previous quarter, as the Gudai-Darri operation achieved its nameplate capacity during the quarter under review.

Iron-ore shipments from the Pilbara reached 79.1-million tonnes, which was down 1% on the previous corresponding period and down 4% on the previous quarter, reflecting the impact of planned major maintenance at the Dampier port and a train derailment.

“We built further momentum in our Pilbara iron-ore business for the quarter, and now expect to deliver shipments in the upper half of our guidance range for the year. The ramp-up of the Oyu Tolgoi underground mine progressed ahead of plan, and we remain on track to more than triple its copper production by the end of the decade. Production downgrades during the quarter highlight that we still have much more to do elsewhere, as we roll out the Safe Production System to create stability and achieve excellence across our global portfolio,” said Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm.

Mined copper production in the quarter reached 145 000 t, down 1% on the previous corresponding period, and stable on the previous quarter, with Rio benefitting from the continued ramp-up of the high-grade underground mine at Oyu Tolgoi.

However, the miner told shareholders that this benefit was more than offset by the continued operation of Kennecott’s concentrator at reduced rates, as the company recovered from a conveyor failure in March, unplanned maintenance, and lower crusher and conveyor availability at Escondida.

Refined copper guidance for the full year has been reduced to 160 000 t to 190 000 t, down from the previous estimate of between 180 000 t and 210 000 t, while copper C1 unit cost guidance has been raised to 180c/lb to 200c/lb, from the previous estimate of 160c/lb to 180c/lb as completion of the rebuild of the Kennecott smelter is now expected in September 2023 instead of August 2023.

Rio said that the extension of the rebuild was due to the addition of a full rebuild of the flash converting furnace to the scope, which was expected to further improve asset stability and process safety management.

Meanwhile, bauxite production for the June quarter reached 13.5-million tonnes, a 5% decline on the previous corresponding period and a 12% increase on the first quarter production, as the Weipa operation was impacted by higher-than-average rainfall which continued to reduce pit access and led to longer haul distances.

Production was further affected by equipment downtime at both Weipa and Gove. As a result, Rio’s bauxite full-year production is expected to be at the lower end of the 54-million- to 57-million-tonne range, as the miner implemented plans to recover lost production at both operations through the remainder of the year.

Aluminium production in the June quarter was up 11% on the previous corresponding period, to 814 000 t, which was also 4% higher than the previous quarter on the back of continued ramp-up of the Kitimat smelter.

Rio told shareholders that recovery at the Boyne and Kitimat smelters was progressing to plan with full ramp-up expected to be completed later in the year.

The miner in June announced a $1.1-billion investment to expand its AP60 aluminium smelter equipped with low-carbon technology at Complexe Jonquière in Canada. The investment will add 96 new AP60 pots, increasing capacity by approximately 160 000 t/y of primary aluminium, enough for 400 000 electric cars. As a result, there will be a total of 134 AP60 pots and a capacity of approximately 220 000 t/y.

Construction will run over two-and-a-half years, with commissioning of the new pots expected to start in the first half of 2026 and the smelter to be fully ramped up by the end of 2026. Once completed, the expanded smelter is expected to be in the first quartile of the industry cost curve.

This new capacity will offset the 170 000 t of capacity lost through the gradual closure of potrooms at the Arvida smelter from 2024. In addition, Rio Tinto will add 30 000 t of new capacity through the commissioning of the previously announced recycling facility at Arvida in the first quarter of 2025. These facilities will ensure Rio’s casting facilities at Complexe Jonquière continue to provide value-added products that meet customers’ needs, including integrating recycled post-consumer aluminium into primary aluminium alloys.

“We continued to take disciplined measures to grow in the materials the world needs for the energy transition, also with investments to expand our low carbon aluminium production and underground copper production at Kennecott,” Stausholm said on Wednesday, noting also the A$498-million investment to deliver underground development and infrastructure for the North Rim Skarn development at Kennecott.

“We are taking practical steps and making investments to decarbonise, being the first to convert an openpit mine to renewable diesel at our Boron operations, signing a memorandum of understanding with Baowu to explore decarbonisation of the steel value chain and delivering first production from our ground-breaking BlueSmelting demonstration plant at Sorel-Tracy, in Quebec, in July.”

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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