Rio Tinto is investing $2.25bn in high-return iron ore and copper projects this year to boost production, the company announced while reporting its 2019 production figures.
The company hopes the investments, which were approved by its board last calendar quarter, improve its iron ore and copper production after recording decreases during Q4-2019.
The company reported iron ore shipments of 327mn mt from Pilbara in Q4-2019, 3pc lower than the same period in 2018, due to weather and operational challenges in H1-2019. In 2020, the company expects shipments to increase to 330-343mn mt.
Aluminum shipments were also down 2pc during the quarter at 3,171kt (3.17mn mt) compared Q4-2018. The mining company attributed the decrease to a preventive safety shutdown of one of the three pot-lines at its ISAL facility in Iceland, and premature pot relining at Kitimat in British Columbia, Canada during H2-2019. Aluminum production is expected to remain in this range in 2020.
Production of mined copper fell by 5pc to 577.4kt, reflecting lower copper grades that were partially offset by higher throughput. The company expects the impact of lower copper grades to persist until it can access higher grades at its Kennecott mine after the completion of a south wall pushback project by the end of 2020. Rio Tinto expects mined copper shipments to decrease further in 2020 to 530-570kt.
Refined copper production, which was reported at 260kt in 2019, is expected to decline further to 205-235kt in 2020.