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Brazil’s Vale reports iron ore, copper and nickel production decline in Q1

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(Kitco News) - Brazilian mining giant Vale reported yesterday that its iron ore fines production totaled 63.9 Mt in 1Q22, 4.1 Mt (or 6%) lower than in 1Q21 and 18.5 Mt (or 22%) lower than in 4Q21.

The company said that on a quarter over quarter basis, production was lower mainly due to the heavy rainfall level in January in Minas Gerais; delays in obtaining licenses, impacting ROM availability, mainly in Serra Norte; and a performance below expectation in S11D and Sossego.

Vale added that a major maintenance undertaken during the quarter should benefit production on a year to go, allowing the company to maintain its expected annual iron ore production guidance range for the year of 320-335 Mt.

Production of finished nickel was 45.8 kt in 1Q22, 5.4% lower than 1Q21, explained by Sudbury mines ramping up during 1Q22 after the labor disruption; the remaining impact of the incident at Totten mine; the ramp-up of VBME project; and unscheduled maintenance on Onça Puma electric furnace.

Despite that, Vale said that Sudbury mines achieved pre-strike rates in February with Totten mine resuming operations in the quarter. Also, Onça Puma maintained a similar performance quarter-over-quarter. As a result, the company expects its nickel production for the year to be in line with its guidance of 175-190 kt.

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Production of copper was 56.6 kt in 1Q22, 26.0% lower than 1Q21. The decrease was largely caused by lower Sossego production, which operated for 24 days during the quarter, due to scheduled SAG mill maintenance.

The maintenance, which was originally scheduled be completed in 1Q22, is now planned to be concluded by mid-May, in order to bring forward the replacement of the SAG mill discharge trunnion, which was planned for a future maintenance.

Given additional unplanned maintenance required at Sossego, at this point Vale expects copper production to be closer to the low end of its guidance of 330-355 kt of copper in 2022.

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