Rio Tinto Cuts 2021 Projection for Iron-Ore Shipments, Copper Output

By Rhiannon Hoyle

Rio Tinto PLC Friday said it expects to ship less iron ore than previously anticipated from its Australian mining operations this year because of delays to projects caused by labor shortages in the country's west.

The world's second-largest miner by market value is also on track to produce less copper and bauxite than it projected this year in big part because of plant-related problems, the company said on Friday.

While Rio Tinto shipped 83.4 million metric tons of iron ore from Australia's Pilbara region in the three months through September, up 2% on a year ago, third-quarter production of the steelmaking commodity was down 4% year-on-year.

"We now expect Pilbara shipments to be 320 to 325 million tons following modest delays to completion of the new greenfield mine at Gudai-Darri and the Robe Valley brownfield mine replacement project due to the tight labor market in Western Australia," said the company.

"We have also experienced delays due to a tight global supply chain, including more emerging challenges around equipment parts availability," it said.

Rio Tinto--which vies with Brazil's Vale SA to be the world's biggest exporter of iron ore--had in July projected 2021 shipments to be at the low end of an earlier 325 million to 340 million ton guidance range.

"It has been another difficult quarter operationally," said Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm.

The company has been benefiting from elevated iron-ore prices, which climbed to record highs earlier this year. Iron ore accounted for more than 80% of Rio Tinto's first-half earnings. While prices are off their earlier peaks, because of a fall in Chinese steel production in recent months, they remain above historical averages.

Write to Rhiannon Hoyle at [email protected]