Alumina Production Flat for Rio Tinto in First Quarter
Rio Tinto recently released its first quarter operations review. Rio Tinto Alcan’s bauxite production was 10% higher than the same quarter of 2012, driven by higher volumes at Weipa in line with increased bauxite requirements from the expanded Yarwun refinery and increased third-party demand. When compared with the fourth quarter of 2012, production was down by 12% due to weather events in Queensland.
Rio Tinto Alcan’s alumina production was flat compared with the same quarter of 2012, with greater alumina refining capacity at Yarwun offsetting the impact of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald at both refineries in Queensland. This inclement weather led to an 18% drop in volumes compared with the fourth quarter of 2012. Both refineries recovered from the weather disruption, reaching close to planned capacity by the end of the quarter.
During the quarter, Rio Tinto announced that Pacific Aluminium’s Gove alumina refinery would continue operating as planning, approvals and delivery of the gas to Gove project progresses. This decision followed a commitment from the Northern Territory Government to release a portion of its contracted gas for on-sale to Gove. A number of important steps remain to deliver gas to Gove.
Pacific Aluminium’s alumina production was 10% lower than the same quarter of 2012. This followed the shutdown of one of three digestion stages at Gove in late February after inspections identified concerns about the weld integrity on some heat exchangers. These will be refurbished or replaced to bring the digestion stage back on line by the end of the fourth quarter. The temporary shutdown is expected to reduce full-year alumina production by 700,000 metric tons compared with 2012. Pacific Aluminium’s full-year bauxite production is expected to be in line with 2012; bauxite exports will be increased to help offset the financial impact of reduced alumina production.
Year-to-date cash cost savings are reportedly tracking on target as the impact of staff reductions and productivity gains are gathering pace.
“Our operations achieved a solid performance in the first quarter, recovering rapidly from the seasonal weather disruptions,” said Sam Walsh, chief executive. “My streamlined Executive Committee structure is now in place, and demanding targets for 2013, including for cash cost savings, are locked into our performance measures. We are making good progress in achieving our cost reduction targets and other priorities for 2013, and are determined in our pursuit of greater value for shareholders.”
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