By Rhiannon Hoyle

Rio Tinto said Tuesday that it has declared force majeure on alumina shipments from operations in Australia's Queensland state because of a gas shortage.

Gas supplies to Rio Tinto's alumina refineries in Gladstone have been constrained since March due to a breakage of the Queensland Gas Pipeline. The company has provided notice of the force majeure affecting third-party contracts, a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. Force majeure is a legal declaration that excuses a company from fulfilling contractual obligations because of circumstances outside its control.

It is expected to take significantly longer than previously expected for gas supplies to return to capacity, the Rio Tinto spokesperson said.

"The pipeline operator's current estimate [is] for a return to normal levels in the second half of 2024," the person said. "Until then, Yarwun and QAL [Queensland Alumina Limited] will continue to operate at lower capacities."

Rio Tinto expects its own aluminum smelters, which source alumina from both the company's own operations and from other producers, will be able to maintain production until gas supplies from the pipeline return to normal, the spokesperson said. Rio Tinto is one of the world's biggest producers of aluminum and its precursor, alumina.

Write to Rhiannon Hoyle at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

05-20-24 2153ET