Mining giant Rio Tinto finished 2017 in line with its guidance across all major projects.
Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques said: “We shipped 90 million t of iron ore from our world-class Pilbara assets, a record quarter which demonstrates the system’s growing flexibility. In 2017, we announced over AUS$8 billion of cash returns to shareholders and continued to reshape the portfolio. Our focus on value over volume and mine-to-market productivity, along with disciplined allocation of cash, will ensure that we continue to deliver superior shareholder returns in the short, medium and the long term.”
Rio’s Pilbara operations produced 329.8 million t (Rio Tinto share 271.3 million t) in 2017. 4Q production of 87.9 million t (Rio Tinto share 72.9 million t) was 3% higher than 4Q16, reflecting the implementation of productivity projects across most sites. This strong performance was achieved despite a planned two week shutdown at Hope Downs 4 in December 2017, in line with the focus on value over volume.
Sales of 330.1 million t (Rio Tinto share 272.0 million t) were in line with 2016 sales. Strong 4Q sales of 90 million t (Rio Tinto share 74.8 million t) were 3% higher than 4Q16, reflecting ongoing productivity improvements being made to the rail network, along with increased flexibility across the infrastructure system.
Pilbara projects Commissioning of the Silvergrass conveyor system is complete and the plant had processed around 2 million t by the end of 2017. Production ramp-up is projected to continue in 2018.
The automation of the Pilbara train system (AutoHaulTM) continues to make strong progress with greater than 60% of all train kilometres now completed in autonomous mode with a driver on board for supervision. The project is on schedule to be completed by the end of 2018.
The Koodaideri project feasibility study was approved for $30.9 million in May 2017. The feasibility study will focus on obtaining necessary consent and permits and increasing orebody knowledge.
Rio Tinto has indicated that Pilbara shipments in 2018 are expected to be between 330 and 340 million t (100% basis). This is subject to market conditions and any weather constraints, and partly reflects continued rail maintenance required in 2018.