Rio Tinto’s Yarwun bauxite refinery.
Rio Tinto’s Yarwun bauxite refinery.

Will bauxite adjustments hit central Queensland refineries?

Thousands of employees in Central Queensland industries which use bauxite from Gove and Weipa are forecast to have jobs for decades to come following Rio Tinto's ore and mineral resources estimate adjustments.

The global mining giant announced the adjustments to estimates from both its Northern Australian bauxite mines to the Australian Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

All of the bauxite that is refined at the Yarwun and Queensland Alumina Limited QAL plants at Gladstone comes from Weipa and Gove, according to Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations Ore Reserve estimate has decreased by 305 million tonnes, from 1.530 billion tonnes to 1.224 billion tonnes.

Mineral resources exclusive of Ore Reserves at RTA Pacific Operations has increased by 128 million tonnes, from 1.949 billion tonnes to 2.077 billion tonnes.

 

Queensland Alumina Limited Gladstone. Picture: Rodney Stevens DJI Mavic Air 2
Queensland Alumina Limited Gladstone. Picture: Rodney Stevens DJI Mavic Air 2

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The RTA Pacific Operations estimates were adjusted based on pricing reviews.

The processing of bauxite to aluminium was detailed by Alumina Limited.

"Approximately four tonnes of bauxite produces one tonne of alumina and approximately two tonnes of alumina are required to produce one tonne of aluminium," Alumina Limited explained.

"Bauxite is generally washed, ground and dissolved in caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) at high pressure and temperature at an alumina refinery."

 

Queensland Alumina Limited Gladstone. Picture: Rodney Stevens DJI Mavic Air 2
Queensland Alumina Limited Gladstone. Picture: Rodney Stevens DJI Mavic Air 2

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Last year, RTA's Weipa bauxite mine had a yield of 35 million tonnes, while 12.3 million tonnes came from Gove.

Rio Tinto's 2020 fourth quarter production report details the activities of Gladstone refineries over the year.

QAL produced 3.701 million tonnes of alumina in 2020, while Yarwun produced 3.175 million tonnes.

 

Boyne Smelters Limited (BSL) is the largest aluminium smelter in Australia. Picture: Supplied
Boyne Smelters Limited (BSL) is the largest aluminium smelter in Australia. Picture: Supplied

 

Boyne Smelters Limited processed the alumina into 510,000 tonnes of aluminium in 2020.

According to these figures, about 28 million tonnes of bauxite is needed to run the refineries at Yarwun and QAL.

From this 28 million tonnes of bauxite, about 7 million tonnes of alumina is produced, which BSL could turn into 3.5 million tonnes of aluminium.

If current production rates at Weipa and Gove are maintained, it is understood enough bauxite remains to continue refining at Yarwun and QAL for about 25 years.

This is without taking into account advancements in mining techniques and price improvements.

The announcements by Rio Tinto to the ASX were made in accordance with the Australasian Code for Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves and the ASX Listing Rules.

 

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