Rio Tinto releases first quarter production results

18 April 2018

Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques said "We delivered a solid operational performance across most commodities in the first quarter of 2018. Our world-class Pilbara iron ore assets continue to demonstrate flexibility and the benefits of increased productivity, and production at our bauxite and copper assets was also higher. We announced $5 billion of divestments in the quarter, highlighting our ongoing drive to strengthen the portfolio and raise return on assets. By continuing to advance our mine-to-market productivity programme, whilst maintaining our focus on the disciplined allocation of cash, we will continue to deliver superior returns to our shareholders."

  Q1 2018 vs Q1 2017 vs Q4 2017
Pilbara iron ore shipments (100% basis) Mt 80.3 +5% -11%
Pilbara iron ore production (100% basis) Mt 83.1 +8% -5%
Bauxite kt 12,653 +12% -8%
Aluminium kt 846 -5% -5%
Mined copper kt 139.3 +65% -6%
Hard coking coal kt 1,102 -30% -53%
Titanium dioxide slag kt 294 -12% -14%
IOC iron ore pellets and concentrate Mt 2.4 -8% -13%

Key points

  • Pilbara iron ore shipments of 80.3 million tonnes (100 per cent basis) in the first quarter were five per cent higher than the first quarter of 2017, benefitting from productivity improvements and fewer weather disruptions.
  • Bauxite production of 12.7 million tonnes was 12 per cent higher than the corresponding quarter of 2017, due to continued operational improvements. Third party shipments increased by 19 per cent to 8.2 million tonnes due to firm demand and higher port availability.
  • Aluminium production of 0.8 million tonnes was five per cent lower than the first quarter of 2017 due primarily to disruptions at the Becancour smelter in Canada.
  • Mined copper production of 139.3 thousand tonnes was 65 per cent higher than the first quarter of 2017, as output recovered at Escondida following a labour union strike in the first half of last year.
  • Titanium dioxide slag production was 12 per cent lower than the first quarter of 2017 due to operational and labour disruptions at Richards Bay Minerals. Guidance has accordingly been revised to 1.1 to 1.3 million tonnes (previously 1.2 to 1.4 million tonnes).
  • Hard coking coal production of 1.1 million tonnes was 30 per cent lower than the first quarter of 2017 due primarily to the longwall changeover and maintenance works at Kestrel.
  • The major growth projects remain on track. The Silvergrass iron ore mine continues to ramp up, Amrun is on schedule for first bauxite shipment in the first half of 2019 and construction of the first drawbell at Oyu Tolgoi Underground is expected in mid-2020.
  • Total divestments announced in 2018 total $5 billion, subject to completion conditions, including:
    o Binding offers for the Aluminium Dunkerque smelter in France for $500 million and the ISAL aluminium smelter in Iceland for $345 million. The sales are expected to complete in the second quarter of 2018.
    o Binding offers for the group’s remaining coal assets, including the Hail Creek and Kestrel mines in Queensland and the Winchester South and Valeria development projects, for total consideration of $4.15 billion. The sales are expected to complete principally in the second half of 2018.

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 2017 is excluded from Rio Tinto share of production data but assets sold in 2018 remain in comparisons.