RIO’s New $4.3B Gudai-Darri Mine Delivers First Iron Ore Shipment

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RIO’s New $4.3B Gudai-Darri Mine Delivers First Iron Ore Shipment

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  • Full capacity estimated at 43 million tonnes annually, from 2023
  • RIO’s total company-wide iron ore shipments estimated at 320 to 335 million tonnes in 2022
  • Autonomous trucks, trains and drills make Gudai-Darri RIO’s most technologically advanced mine
  • A 34MW solar plant will deliver a third of Gudai-Darri’s average electricity demand
  • RIO set to continue its history of converting higher iron ore prices into earnings and free cash flow
  • Supported by a 79 percent dividend payout ratio, shareholders can expect future record dividends.

Rio Tinto Limited (‘RIO’ or the ‘Company’) is the world’s second largest metals and mining corporation (after BHP). Founded in 1873, today RIO employs 49,000 people. The Company’s product groups are iron ore, copper & diamonds, aluminium, gold and uranium. RIO’s iron ore business is the Company’s primary profit contributor. The Company’s iron ore interests are based in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and comprise several large-scale integrated mines.

First iron ore delivery at new Gudai-Darri mine

Commenced in April 2019, RIO’s first greenfield mine site in the Pilbara in 10 years has delivered its first iron ore shipment, following capital expenditure of US$3.1 billion (A$4.3 billion).

Labour access and supply chain quality issues during construction added approximately 15 percent to the original estimated capital cost of the mine. Since commencement of construction in 2019, more than 14 million workhours and movement of 20 million cubic metres of earth and 35,000 cubic metres of concrete and 10,000 tonnes of steel have been used. The mine’s design and construction phase supported 3,000 jobs, while the mine’s operations will provide 600 permanent jobs over the 40-year mine life. Production will continue to ramp up throughout 2022 before reaching full capacity in 2023, of 43 million tonnes annually. RIO anticipates total shipments across the Company of 320 to 335 million tonnes in 2022. A feasibility study has commenced to assess the economics of an expansion of this new hub.

Mine Innovation and Technology

Gudai-Darri is RIO’s most innovative and technologically advanced mine site.

The use of autonomous trucks, trains and drills, as well as a robotic ore sampling laboratory, field mobility devices and the use of data analytics, mean that Gudai-Darri is safer and more productive than any other mine site operated by the Company.

The mine site has excellent Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials. RIO is one of the largest users of electricity in the Western world and is moving to decarbonise its assets and invest in renewable power. Construction of a 45MW battery system at Tom Price is continuing and construction of a 34MW solar plant at the Gudai-Darri mine is a key step in reducing the Company’s carbon footprint in the Pilbara. The solar plant will deliver about a third of Gudai-Darri’s average electricity demand. The Pilbara is rich in natural energy sources including solar and wind and so RIO will continue to deploy renewable power at scale in this region.

The Future

Apart from iron ore, which accounts for about 70 percent of RIO’s EBITDA, the Company’s gradual diversification to future-facing metals like lithium and now copper, which are essential commodities in a carbon-neutral world, is a strategically sound decision.

Iron ore is essential for steel production, which is used in the construction and infrastructure sectors. This underwrites the long-term demand for iron ore, especially from China.

RIO has a proven history of converting higher proportions of iron ore prices into earnings and free cash flow, over the past 10 years. This trend is set to continue, ensuring record dividends, which last year totalled US$16.8 billion, representing a generous 79 percent dividend payout ratio.

RIO is well positioned to continue this shareholder value accretion trend in the decade ahead.

Louis Mosmann

Louis Mosmann is a Private Wealth Client and Research Assistant at KOSEC- Kodari Securities. Louis covers macroeconomic events, global markets and ASX300 company announcements, allowing clients to make more informed investment decisions. Email Louis at l.mosmann@kosec.com.au.

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