Rio Tinto released its production figures for the first quarter of 2016, which mostly met expectations. The company’s production guidance for 2016 remained the same for most of its products. Pilbara iron ore production for 2017, however, was reduced to 330 million to 340 million metrics tons (mt) from 350 million mt due to the delays with its AutoHaul program.
Global iron ore shipments of 80.8 million mt (Rio Tinto share 64.9 million mt) were 11% higher than in the first quarter of 2015 due to the completion of some brownfield developments and expanded infrastructure capacity in the Pilbara in 2015, but were lower than the prior quarter due to normal seasonal factors, according to the company.
Rio Tinto also reported improvements throughout the aluminum product group. Bauxite production was 11.1 million mt, a 6% improvement compared to the first quarter of 2015. Alumina production increased by 7% compared with the first quarter of 2015. Aluminum production increased by 10% compared with the first quarter of 2015 following the successful completion of the ramp-up at the Kitimat smelter.
Mined copper production was 27% higher than the previous quarter, with higher grades at Kennecott, improved throughput, and water availability at Escondida and a share of production from Grasberg.
During the quarter, the company completed the divestment of the Bengalla coal mine and the restructure of the Coal & Allied group, and announced the sale of the Mount Pleasant coal project.
In the Pilbara, work continued on the Nammuldi Incremental Tonnes (NIT) project, which delivers high grade, low phosphorous ore into the Pilbara Blend. The initial phase, with a 5-million-mt/y capacity, commenced production in the fourth quarter of 2015 and the second phase, which will take annual mine capacity from 5 to 10 million mt/y, is due to come into production in the fourth quarter of 2016. A further investment decision on the Silvergrass project is expected in the second half of the year.
The Cape Lambert Power Station project is progressing on schedule with civil contractors mobilized. The station will provide the power required for additional infrastructure in the Pilbara. Testing and verification of AutoHaul is continuing, with more than 75,000 km of mainline trials completed; however, some delays are being experienced.