The New Zealand connection for global mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd maintained a steady production rate in the March quarter for alumina production.
Rio Tinto owns 79% of New Zealand Aluminium Smelter’s (NZAS) Tiwai Point smelter at Bluff in Southland which is the dominant electricity consumer in the country.
The March quarter report showed Rio’s share of output was 66,000t of aluminium metal in the three months – as part of the company’s total share of global aluminium production of 846,000t.
The Tiwai Point performance was only 1,000t equity production less than the December quarter output. However, the quarter report said global aluminium production was 5% lower than in the March quarter of last year, mainly due to power and industrial issues at European facilities.
The Pacific Aluminium assets of Rio Tinto – alumina and refining operations in Australia and NZ – have twice been put out in the market in recent years, mainly in periods of depressed aluminium prices.
One issue going into the June quarter is the political status of Russia’s Rusal company which holds a 20% stake in Queensland Alumina Ltd in Australia. The new US trade tariffs may impact operations as there it includes an offtake deal for bauxite being sent to Rusal’s refinery in Ireland and offtake for alumina used at Rio’s smelters, mainly in France and Iceland.
The recent annual meeting in London showed that Rio in general terms had a great year with economic drivers including improved metal prices, including aluminium, and the strong performance of the company’s big iron ore mines in Western Australia’s Pilbara.
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