By Joe Wallace
Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said the mining company had experienced a challenging quarter as it released second-quarter production figures on Tuesday. Here are some of highlights from the report.
Rio Tinto's output of mined copper fell 13% from a year earlier to 137,000 tons, reflecting worsening ore quality at Escondida in Chile and Kennecott in Utah. For 2019 as a whole, Rio Tinto expects to produce between 550,000 and 600,000 tons, down from 633,500 tons in 2018.
Work on an underground mine at the Oyu Tolgoi operation in Mongolia could take to 30 months longer than previously planned, Rio said in a separate statement. The first sustainable production could take place between May 2022 and June 2023, likely exacerbating a global shortage of copper.
Iron-ore production continued to be affected by cyclone damage to operations in Australia. Production at Rio's Pilbara operations fell 7% from a year earlier to 79.7 million tons in the second quarter, and shipments fell 3% to 85.4 million tons. Rio has cut its forecast for shipments this year to between 320 million-330 million tons, which would represent a small decline from the 338.2 million tons shipped in 2018. This guidance could change again depending on the weather, it said.
Bauxite production was 1% higher than in the second quarter of 2018 at 13.4 million tons as the Amrun mine in Queensland ramped up production. Aluminum production was almost unchanged at 800,000 tons, weighed down by a dispute between management and unions at the Becancour smelter that has now been resolved. Rio expects production to restart at the end of July and for the smelter to be running at full capacity by mid-2020.
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