Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques said “We have delivered improved production across the majority of our products in the third quarter, with a solid result at our Pilbara mines driving increased sales of iron ore into robust markets. Our strong value over volume approach, coupled with our focus on operational performance and disciplined allocation of capital, will continue to deliver superior returns to shareholders over the short, medium and long term.”
Q3 2019 vs Q3 2018 vs Q2 2019 9 mths 2019 vs 9mths 2018
Pilbara iron ore shipments (100% basis) Mt 86.1 +5% +1% 240.6 -4%
Pilbara iron ore production (100% basis) Mt 87.3 +6% +10% 243.1 -3%
Bauxite Mt 13.8 +9% +3% 40.0 +3%
Aluminium kt 789 -3% -2% 2,388 -1%
Mined copper kt 157.8 -1% +15% 437.6 -4%
Titanium dioxide slag kt 321 +8% +6% 920 +12%
IOC iron ore pellets and concentrate Mt 3.0 +3% +17% 8.0 +30%
Pilbara iron ore shipments of 86.1 million tonnes (100% basis) in the third quarter were 5% higher than the third quarter of 2018. Pilbara iron ore production of 87.3 million tonnes (100% basis) was 6% higher than the third quarter of 2018 and 10% higher than the previous quarter, reflecting a good recovery from the operational and weather challenges experienced earlier in the year.
Third quarter bauxite production and shipments to third parties were 9% and 23% higher, respectively, than the same period of 2018. Bauxite production from non-managed Joint Ventures was lower than planned year to date.
Aluminium production of 0.8 million tonnes was 3% lower than the third quarter of 2018, primarily reflecting a preventive safety shutdown at one of the three pot-lines at ISAL in Iceland and earlier than planned pot relining at Kitimat in British Columbia, Canada.
Mined copper production of 158 thousand tonnes was 1% lower than the third quarter of 2018, but 15% higher than the second quarter, reflecting higher grades at Kennecott and improved throughput at Escondida.
At the Oyu Tolgoi underground project, the primary production shaft (shaft 2) remains on track for commissioning this month. Since July 2019, we have completed key infrastructure, including the central heating plant, the shaft 2 jaw crusher system and the surface discharge conveyor. Work continues on the mine re-design.
Titanium dioxide slag production of 321 thousand tonnes was 8% higher than the third quarter of 2018, reflecting a continued improvement in operational performance and the restart of furnaces in 2019.
Third quarter production at Iron Ore Company of Canada was 3% higher than the corresponding quarter of 2018 and 17% higher than the previous quarter, reflecting a return to normal operating conditions following the flooding incident which impacted June.
Guidance is unchanged, with the exception of bauxite production, which has been revised to around 54 million tonnes (previously 56 to 59 million tonnes), and alumina production, which has been revised to around 7.7 million tonnes (previously 8.1 to 8.4 million tonnes).
On 25 September 2019, Rio Tinto announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with China Baowu Steel Group and Tsinghua University to develop and implement new methods to reduce carbon emissions and improve environmental performance across the steel value chain.
Third quarter exploration and evaluation spend was $177 million, 62% higher than the same period of 2018, primarily reflecting increased activity on advanced projects.
All figures in this report are unaudited. All currency figures in this report are US dollars, and comments refer to Rio Tinto’s share of production, unless otherwise stated. To allow production numbers to be compared on a like-for-like basis, production from asset divestments completed in 2018 is excluded from Rio Tinto share of production data.
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Mined copper production from the open pit in the third quarter of 2019 was 28% lower than the same period in 2018 and 27% lower than the prior quarter as mining activity moved to lower grade areas of the pit, as planned.
Oyu Tolgoi Underground Project
Commissioning milestones for the primary production shaft (shaft 2) remain on target for completion in October. Rope-up of the service and production hoists was completed as planned, and testing of the braking system has also been completed.
Since July 2019, we have also completed key infrastructure, including the central heating plant, the shaft 2 jaw crusher system and the surface discharge conveyor.
As previously announced on 16 July 2019, enhanced geotechnical information and data modelling suggests there may be some stability risks with the Feasibility Study 2016 mine design and so a number of mine design options are under consideration. Work is focusing on evaluating design options, including the impact of relocation or removal of some of the planned underground infrastructure, such as the mid-access drives and the ore handling system and options for panel sequencing.
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Work on the final design of the first panel of mining, Panel 0, is still anticipated to continue until early 2020 and the Definitive Estimate, which will include the final estimate of cost and schedule for the remaining underground project, is still expected to be delivered in the second half of 2020.