The Rio Tinto mine in Boron, California
The Rio Tinto logo is displayed on a visitor’s helmet at a borates mine in Boron, California, U.S., November 15, 2019. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon/Files

October 14, 2021

(Reuters) -Rio Tinto Group on Friday reduced its 2021 iron ore shipments forecast, as a tighter labour market in Western Australia delayed the completion of a new greenfield mine at Gudai-Darri.

“It has been another difficult quarter operationally and … we recognise the opportunity to raise our performance,” said chief executive officer Jakob Stausholm.

The miner now expects 2021 Pilbara iron ore shipments between 320 million tonnes (mt) and 325 mt, down from the lower end of a previous range of 325 mt to 340 mt.

The downgrade puts Rio on course to lose its spot as the world’s biggest iron ore producer to Brazilian rival Vale S.A..

A tight global supply chain also added to its troubles, the company said.

“There are some clear headwinds from recent regulatory tightening (in China) and the transition may lead to some near-term volatility,” Rio added.

Iron ore prices have nearly halved since hitting a record peak in mid-May, with demand hurt by China’s steel output curbs and a sharp slowdown in the country’s property activity due to a regulatory crackdown. [IRONORE/]

Still, Rio shipped 83.4 mt of the steel-making commodity in the three months ended Sept. 30, 2% higher than the 82.1 mt shipped last year.

However, Pilbara iron ore production was 4% lower, hurt by heritage management, brownfield mine replacement tie-ins and project completion delays.

Rio’s destruction of the 46,000 year-old Juukan Gorge rock shelters last year had led to a leadership overhaul of the company and a national inquiry.

In a separate statement on Thursday, Rio’s majority-owned Canadian miner Turquoise Hill Resources said the estimated additional funding required for the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia had ballooned to $3.6 billion due to some delays.

Oyu Tolgoi, which is 34% owned by the Mongolian government, is one of the world’s largest copper-gold-silver mines, and was at the centre of a long-running funding spat between Rio Tinto and Turquoise.

(Reporting by Indranil Sarkar and Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Karishma Singh)

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