Rio Tinto Releases Second Quarter Production Results
Pilbara iron ore production of 75.9 million tonnes (100% basis) was 9% lower than the second quarter of 2020 due to above average rainfall in the West Pilbara, shutdowns to enable replacement mines to be tied in, processing plant availability, and cultural heritage management. Shipments of 76.3 million tonnes (100% basis) were 12% lower than the second quarter of 2020 with some additional drawdown of inventories. Ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and a tight labour market have further impacted our ability to access experienced contractors and particular skill sets.
Bauxite production of 13.7 million tonnes was 6% lower than the second quarter of 2020 due to ongoing system instability following severe wet weather in Eastern Australia in the first quarter.
Aluminium production of 0.8 million tonnes was 4% higher than the second quarter of 2020, underpinned by the ISAL smelter in Iceland and the Becancour smelter in Quebec operating at full capacity, and the Kitimat smelter in British Columbia nearing completion of its pot relining cycle.
Mined copper production of 115.5 thousand tonnes was 13% lower than the second quarter of 2020, with lower recoveries and throughput at Escondida as a result of the prolonged impact of COVID-19, and a planned relocation of the in-pit crusher at Kennecott in April. On 31 May, an anticipated slope failure occurred in the south east wall of the Bingham Canyon pit at Kennecott. There were no injuries or damage to equipment as the slide was accurately predicted by our geotechnical experts. Mining in the affected area restarted progressively in June. No ore has been sterilised and we expect to recover the material from the slide which is largely copper bearing ore. Mining rates will however be slower due to the size distribution of the material, and therefore some high-grade production scheduled for late 2021 will be deferred to 2022.
Titanium dioxide slag production of 298 thousand tonnes was 14% higher than the second quarter of 2020 due to consistent production at the Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Quebec. Following weeks of violent disruptions, our RBM operations have been significantly hampered. As a result, we have declared force majeure, with all operations curtailed.
Production of pellets and concentrate at Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) was 2% lower than the second quarter of 2020 due to labour and equipment availability issues impacting product feed. Force majeure declared in April following the fire at the port has been lifted.
Rio Tinto Chief Executive Ms Jakob Stausholm said “The global economy, in particular China, recovered strongly and we are intensely focused on servicing our customers with as much product as we can. 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. 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.”
He said “We expect iron ore shipments to be at the low end of the guidance range which remains subject to COVID-19 disruptions, tie-in and ramp up of brownfield replacement mines and management of cultural heritage. Mined copper and bauxite production is expected to be at the low end of the guidance range. Full year titanium dioxide slag production guidance has been removed as a result of risks around the timing of resumption of operations at RBM in South Africa, due to an escalation in the security situation. We are working with the local and federal governments and police to ensure we can safely resume operations.”