SYDNEY – Rio Tinto on Tuesday cut its 2017 production guidance from its Australian iron ore mines due to a delay in the rollout of its autonomous transport technology, based on driverless trains.
The global mining giant said output from its Pilbara mines, which make up the vast majority of its iron ore production, would fall to 330 million to 340 million tonnes from a previous forecast of 350 million tonnes, as testing of its AutoHaul technology continues.
Rio Tinto’s $518 million autonomous train plan has been under development since 2012, and follows the deployment of 71 autonomous trucks at its Australian iron ore mines.
Still, the world’s No. 2 iron ore producer posted an 11 percent rise in first quarter iron ore shipments and confirmed it was on track for a record 350 million tonnes in 2016 as it runs its mines at full tilt despite a global supply glut amid slower Chinese industrial growth.
The production increases underscore the determination of outgoing Chief Executive Sam Walsh to defy calls for supply restraints until markets are in better balance.
Rio Tinto’s first quarter shipments climbed to 80.8 million tonnes from 72.5 million in the year-ago quarter, but were down from 91.3 million tonnes in the preceding quarter due to a cyclone that interrupted shipments in late January.
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