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Rio Tinto reports iron ore, copper production down in 2021 as operating conditions remained challenging

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(Kitco News) - Rio Tinto reported today that its Pilbara iron ore production of 319.7 million tonnes in 2021 was 4% lower than 2020, mainly due to above average rainfall in the first half of the year, cultural heritage management and delays in growth and brownfield mine replacement tie-in projects.

The company added that Pilbara shipments in 2021 were 321.6 million tonnes, 3% lower than 2020, and included elevated levels of SP10 product as a result of delays in growth and brownfield mine replacement tie-in projects.

The company's mined copper production of 494 thousand tonnes in 2021 was 7% lower than 2020 due to lower recoveries and throughput at Escondida as a result of the prolonged impact of COVID-19, partly offset by higher recoveries and grades at Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia and Kennecott in the US.

Bauxite production of 54.3 million tonnes was 3% lower than 2020 due to severe wet weather in the first quarter impacting system stability throughout the year, equipment reliability issues and overruns on planned shutdowns at our Pacific operations.

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Production of pellets and concentrate at Iron Ore Company of Canada was 6% lower than 2020 due to prolonged labour and equipment availability issues impacting product feed and various other operational challenges throughout the year.

The company noted that at the Jadar lithium-borate project in Serbia, as a result of delays in the approval of the exploitation field licence, it is revising development timelines. Based on current estimates and subject to receiving all relevant approvals, permits and licences, first saleable production is expected to be no earlier than 2027 (previously 2026).

CEO Jakob Stausholm said, “In 2021, we continued to experience strong demand for our products while operating conditions remained challenging, including due to prolonged COVID-19 disruptions. Despite this, we progressed a number of our projects, including the Pilbara replacement mines, underlining the resilience of the business and the commitment and flexibility of our people, communities and host governments. We are seeing some initial positive results from the implementation of the Rio Tinto Safe Production System, which we will significantly ramp up in 2022, as we continue to work hard to improve our operational performance to become the best operator.”

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