The automotive sector is showing signs of recovery from a low base, supporting demand for aluminium value-added products, UK-Australia resources firm Rio Tinto said as it reported a slight fall in output in January-June.
The group’s aluminium output totalled 785,000t in April-June, 2pc lower than a year earlier but in line with January-March. Output for the first half of 2020 totalled 1.56mn t, down by 2pc on a year earlier. The company maintained its full-year guidance of 3.1mn-3.3mn t.
The company’s production was affected by pot relining at Kitimat in Canada, the reduction of capacity at Isal in Iceland to 85pc, and the curtailment of the fourth potline at New Zealand Aluminium Smelters in April as a result of Covid-19.
Rio Tinto reduced the proportion of primary metal being produced as value-added product to 40pc of primary metal sold in the first half of 2020, compared to 54pc a year earlier, in response to market conditions.
“The aluminium industry continues to face challenging conditions in global markets and policy uncertainty, exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19,” Rio Tinto said.
Aluminium prices have recovered recently but are still lower than at the beginning of the year. Three-month London Metals Exchange aluminium was at $1,660/t on 15 July, compared to $1,814/t in mid-January and $1,459/t in early April.
The uncertainty in the aluminium market has had limited impact on demand for bauxite. Rio Tinto produced 14.6mn t of bauxite in April-June, up by 9pc on a year earlier and 5pc higher than in January-March. Output in the first half of 2020 rose by 8pc from a year earlier to 28.4mn t. Bauxite production benefitted from the ramp-up of the Amrun operation in Queensland and higher output in Guinea.
Alumina production was 1.99mn t in April-June, up by 6pc on a year earlier but 1pc lower than in January-March. Second-quarter output was boosted by higher production from Pacific refineries, with Yarwun in Australia achieving its highest quarterly output. January-June rose by 3pc to 4mn t.