Diversified miner Rio Tinto has delivered another strong quarter of results, with a production increase reported across all of its commodities, apart from titanium dioxide slag.
“We delivered another quarter of progress and maintained momentum at our Pilbara iron-ore operations. We continued to make good headway ramping up our Oyu Tolgoi high-grade underground copper mine, our Kitimat aluminium smelter returned to full production, and we safely restarted the smelter and refinery at Kennecott after completing the largest rebuild in its history. We have more to do as we work towards sustainable performance improvements across our business,” said CEO Jakob Stausholm.
“We took real steps to build our portfolio of materials needed for the future, signing agreements that will see us take a leading position in recycled aluminium in North America and agreeing to enter a joint venture with Codelco to explore for copper in Chile. We also completed further infrastructure agreements with our partners for the world class Simandou iron-ore project.
“We are making strong progress towards building the Rio Tinto of the future, striking a balance between disciplined performance in evolving market conditions, investing to generate valuable long-term growth and delivering attractive shareholder returns.”
Rio on Tuesday reported that iron-ore production from its Pilbara operations increased by 3% in the quarter ended September, compared with the second quarter, reaching 83.5-million tonnes, with iron-ore shipments up 6% on the second quarter to 83.9-million tonnes.
The miner continued to expect full-year shipments to reach the upper half of the original 320-million to 335-million guidance.
Copper production in the quarter under review increased by 17% on the second quarter, to 169 000 t on a consolidated basis, as operations at Oyu Tolgoi continued to ramp up and higher copper grade feeds were experienced at the Escondida project.
These benefits were partially offset by lower production at Kennecott, as the concentrator returned to full capacity during the period, recovering from the conveyor failure which occurred in March 2023.
Refined copper production in the quarter reached 34 000 t, with Rio completing the largest rebuild of the smelter and refinery in Kennecott’s history during the quarter. The near $300-million rebuild incorporated approximately 300 engineering and maintenance projects, and a workforce of around 3 200. The refinery and smelter were safely restarted during the period, with production expected to ramp up during the fourth quarter. The scope of works included a rebuild of the flash converting furnace, which was restarted late in the third quarter.
For the full year, Rio is targeting mined copper of between 590 000 t and 640 000 t, and refined copper of between 160 000 t and 190 000 t.
Bauxite production in the September quarter was up 3% on the previous quarter, to 13.9-million tonnes, with Rio achieving initial benefits of stabilising its operations, particularly at Weipa where equipment reliability and performance improved. The miner shipped 9.5-million tonnes of bauxite to third parties in the quarter.
Meanwhile, alumina production was up 2% to 1.89-million tonnes as operational stability improved at the Yarwun and Queensland Alumina refineries. Aluminium production increased by 2% to 828 000 t, with Rio returning to full capacity at the Kitimat smelter and completing cell recoveries at its Boyne smelter.
Bauxite production for the full year is targeted at between 54-million and 57-million tonnes, with alumina production targeted at between 7.4-million and 7.7-million tonnes, and aluminium production at between 3.1-million and 3.3-million tonnes.