Rio Tinto in its Q3 results has reported important technology and production milestones. The automation of its Pilbara train system (AutoHaul) is in ramp-up, with a steady increase in the number of trains in autonomous mode over the third quarter. Autonomous mode operations have increased to an average of 34 trains per day, equating to 290,000 km (or 45% of daily kilometres) completed in this mode. Full implementation of AutoHaul is expected by the end of 2018. Rio Tinto’s Pilbara shipments in 2018 are expected to be at the upper end of the existing guidance range (330 to 340 Mt, 100% basis).
Pilbara operations produced 251.2 Mt (Rio Tinto share 209.7 Mt) in the first nine months of 2018, 4% higher than the same period of 2017 due to favourable weather conditions in the first half, a continued improvement in mine and rail capacity as Silvergrass ramps up and ongoing productivity improvements across the integrated system. The Koodaideri feasibility study remains on track for completion in 2018. Early works funding of A$146 million was approved on 1 August 2018 ahead of a final investment decision expected by the end of the year. The approval of the West Angelas Deposits C and D project, and the Robe Valley sustaining project was announced by Rio Tinto and its joint venture partners on 1 October 2018 for A$1.55 billion (Rio Tinto’s 53% share A$820 million). Construction is forecast to commence in 2019, subject to final environmental and government approvals.
In bauxite, 8.4 Mt of bauxite were shipped to third parties in the third quarter of 2018, 2% higher than the third quarter of 2017, reflecting firm demand. The Amrun project is ahead of schedule, with first shipment now expected in the fourth quarter of 2018 and
full ramp-up in 2019. Pre-commissioning has commenced on critical infrastructure such as the reclaimer and beneficiation plant, and the shiploader was successfully transported to site and installed on the wharf facility.