Rio Tinto reports dip in first-quarter iron-ore shipments

17th April 2024 By: Mariaan Webb - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

Rio Tinto reports dip in first-quarter iron-ore shipments

Rio Tinto CEO Jacob Stausholm says the group delivered stable operating results in the first quarter.

Diversified mining group Rio Tinto has reported lower first-quarter iron-ore shipments of 78-million tonnes, amounting to a 5% year-on-year decline.

The company attributed the dip to weather disruptions at ports, leading to a lower stock drawdown, and decreased production from certain mines in Western Australia.

Rio Tinto, however, affirmed its expectations for Pilbara iron-ore shipments for 2024 at 323-million to 338-million tonnes at a unit cash cost of $21.75/t to $23.50/t.

Pilbara iron-ore production dipped by 2% year-on-year to 77.9-million tonnes (100% basis).

One significant contributing factor to the production decline was the depletion of resources at the Yandicoogina mine. However, productivity gains across other operations partially offset the difficulties at Yandicoogina.

Rio Tinto is advancing various Pilbara projects, aimed at replenishing resources and expanding its iron-ore mining capabilities.

In its first-quarter production results announcement, the company reports that the Western Range mine has achieved a construction milestone with progress surpassing 50%. The focus has shifted towards crucial tasks such as greenfield crushing and screening, and integrating the Paraburdoo plant. First ore is on schedule for 2025.

Beyond the Western Range mine, Rio Tinto is studying and investing in several other Pilbara projects as part of its mine replacement studies. These initiatives include Hope Downs 1, Brockman 4, Greater Nammuldi, and West Angelas projects.

Further, the Rhodes Ridge prefeasibility study continues to advance. This study, targeting an initial capacity of up to 40-million tonnes a year, is progressing steadily, with resource evaluation activities under way. Expected to be completed by the end of 2025, the study will pave the way for a feasibility assessment, with first ore anticipated by the end of the decade.

Rio Tinto's initiatives extend beyond traditional mining operations. The Coastal Water desalination project, approved in late 2023, represents a significant investment in sustainable infrastructure. With engineering and procurement activities well under way, the $395-million project aims to provide water to Rio Tinto's port operations in Dampier, reducing reliance on freshwater sources and contributing to environmental conservation efforts.

Meanwhile, Rio Tinto’s first-quarter bauxite production increased by 11% to 13.4-million tonnes and aluminium output jumped 5%.

Mined copper production increased by 7% year-on-year to 156 000 t in the three months ended March.

While Kennecott mined copper production in the US increased by 7% in the first quarter, production was down a substantial 32% than in the previous quarter, owing to unplanned conveyor downtime.

Copper production at Escondida, in Chile, increased by 7% year-on-year, owing to higher concentrator feed grade, while production at Oyu Tolgoi, in Mongolia, increased by 8% on the back of continued ramp-up success.

“We delivered stable operating results in the first quarter, including improvements at our bauxite and aluminium businesses, as we navigated seasonal challenges across our global operations,” said CEO Jakob Stausholm.

He affirmed Rio Tinto’s full-year guidance across all its products.