Mining giant Rio Tinto has ramped up iron ore production in the Pilbara on Australia’s west coast, shipping enough of the key steelmaking material to reach the top end of its guidance, despite planned maintenance and a rail derailment slowing operations.
The price of iron ore, one of Australia’s most lucrative exports, fell during the June quarter, down from elevated levels last year as a property slump in China – by far the world’s biggest steelmaker – and slower-than-expected global growth, reduced demand for steel.
After bottoming out at around $US98 in late May, iron ore prices have since rallied to about $US116.
Rio’s output in the Pilbara slowed last month when a driverless train with 30 carriages derailed, damaging about 700 metres of track on a key rail line to the Port of Dampier that took three days to repair and reopen.
“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,” Rio’s chief executive Jakob Stausholm said in a quarterly update.
The miner’s Pilbara operations produced 81.3 million tonnes in the second quarter, about 3 per cent higher than the same quarter last year, although shipments were about 1 per cent lower. Improvements across Rio’s ore mines should see full-year shipments land in the upper half of the miner’s forecast 320 million to 335 million tonne range.
The company reported production was slightly down for another key material, copper – a metal in high demand as the world transitions away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels to low-emissions renewable energy.
Rio is ramping up copper production from its underground mine at Oyu Tolgoi, in Mongolia’s South Gobi Desert, but overall copper production was 1 per cent lower during the quarter – at 145,000 tonnes – because of machinery failures at its Kennecott mine, just outside Salt Lake City in the US, and reduced crusher and conveyor availability at Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert.
“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,” Stausholm said.
The company said bauxite production from its Weipa operation in far north Queensland was 5 per cent lower at 13.5 million tonnes because of higher-than-average rainfall, with full-year production expected to be at the lower end of its 54 to 57 million tonne range.
“Production downgrades during the quarter highlight that we still have much more to do elsewhere,” Stausholm said.
“We continued to take disciplined measures to grow in the materials the world needs for the energy transition, with investments to expand our low carbon aluminium production and increase our underground copper production at Kennecott,” he said.
“We are taking practical steps and making investments to decarbonise, being the first to convert an open pit 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.”
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Source: Thanks smh.com