Commodities, News, Production

Rio Tinto production decreases as wet weather hits iron ore

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto experienced a drop in production across all its commodities in 2021 as the company was impacted by a range of disruptions.  

Announcing its fourth quarter and annual production results for 2021, the major miner revealed a 3 per cent decrease in annual Pilbara iron ore production (100 per cent basis) and a 4 per cent decline in annual shipments from its Pilbara iron ore operations (100 per cent basis).  

Rio Tinto flagged above average rainfall in the first half of the year, delays in growth and brownfield mine replacement tie-in projects, plus cultural heritage management as the reasons for the falls in production.  

The company’s bauxite production totalled 54.3 million tonnes in 2021, 3 per cent lower than the year before, as wet weather disruptions, equipment reliability issues and extended planned shutdowns hit its Pacific operations. 

Rio Tinto also recorded a marginally lower aluminium production for 2021 (1 per cent decline to 3.2 million tonnes) and a 7 per cent decrease in annual copper production, as a 69-day strike impacted capacity at the company’s Kitimat aluminium smelter in British Columbia, Canada, and COVID-19 disrupted the Escondida copper mine in Chile. 

Despite the decreased production, Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm said the company and its stakeholders have plenty to be encouraged about. 

“In 2021, we continued to experience strong demand for our products while operating conditions remained challenging, including due to prolonged COVID-19 disruptions,” he said. 

“Despite this, we progressed a number of our projects, including the Pilbara replacement mines, underlining the resilience of the business and the commitment and flexibility of our people, communities and host governments. 

“We are seeing some initial positive results from the implementation of the Rio Tinto Safe Production System, which we will significantly ramp up in 2022, as we continue to work hard to improve our operational performance to become the best operator.” 

In 2022, Rio Tinto’s guidance for Pilbara iron ore shipments is between 320 and 335 million tonnes, bauxite production targets are 54 to 57 million tonnes, alumina production targets are 8 to 8.4 million tonnes and aluminium production targets are 3.1 to 3.2 million tonnes.  

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