Rio Tinto’s third quarter iron ore production improved to be just one per cent below the same period last year as staff returned to pre-COVID work rosters.
The miner produced 86.4 million tonnes of iron ore from Western Australia’s Pilbara region, and has produced two per cent more after three quarters than the same time last year.
Staff were still working under social distancing measures, and chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said the company was learning to live with COVID-19.
Iron ore shipments for the quarter of 82.1 million tonnes were down five per cent.
This was due to maintenance work at the Pilbara port, which had been postponed from the first half of the financial year.
This maintenance is due to continue during the fourth quarter.
Rio said Chinese iron ore demand was at record levels after the virus had disrupted supply.
However Rio also said the rate of recovery was slowing in most economies and could be hampered by renewed lockdowns.
Rio produced 14.5 million tonnes of bauxite, up five per cent, while the 797 thousand tonnes of aluminium was one per cent higher.
Mined copper of 129.6 thousand tonnes was down 18 per cent due to pit sequencing in the US, while titanium dioxide slag dropped nine per cent to 293 thousand tonnes.
Production of pellets and concentrate at subsidiary Iron Ore Company of Canada fell 21 per cent due to annual maintenance.
Rio also revealed it wrote to indigenous communities in the Pilbara this week after it blew up the sacred Juukan Gorgan site in May while extracting iron ore.
Rio said it is reviewing how it works near heritage sites, with an immediate focus on sites that could be affected in the next 24 months.
The furore that followed the gorge’s destruction eventually led to Mr Jacques and two other executives resigning.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Tyler Broda said it will be difficult for Rio shares to gain too much momentum until new leaders are named and the implications of the heritage review were known.
Company representatives were due to answer questions from a parliamentary inquiry today into the destruction of the gorge.
Shares were down 1.02 per cent to $95.29 at 1404 AEDT on Friday.