QAL, Yarwun's alumina production rockets with fewer workers

WORKERS at Rio Tinto Yarwun have picked up the slack from the near 100 job cuts in May to record an 18% increase in production.

>>Boyne Smelters could be sold in $5.2b sale prediction: 'I'm a realist'

But it isnt just Yarwun that has been pulling its weight. Queensland Alumina Limited has also increased its production despite having lost staff.

Overall, alumina production was up six per cent for the first half of 2016 for Rio Tinto as the June quarter report cited Yarwun's performance as the main driving factor.


FEB. 16 >>QAL workers axed as price plummets to 25-year low

FEB. 17 >>QAL job cuts 'not a good thing for Gladstone': leaders react

FEB. 18 >>Dedicated QAL worker shown door after more than 18 years

MAR. 9: >>QAL workers in anxious 11 day wait to hear of job losses

MAY 11: >>Yarwun workers learn fate, axed in restructure

MAY 31: >>RIO JOB CUTS: Anxious wait over for Yarwun workers, 50 axed

Rio Tinto Yarwun increased production by 18% in the June quarter. Photo Luka Kauzlaric / The Observer
Rio Tinto Yarwun increased production by 18% in the June quarter. Photo Luka Kauzlaric / The Observer Luka Kauzlaric

Yarwun improved its production by 123,000t this June quarter compared to last year's, making 823,000t of alumina.

The increase has been created by the refinery's design and process improvements, put into place following its organisational review.

QAL, which has been operating for more than 40 years, produced 935,000t of alumina in the June quarter, up by 8000t on the same quarter last year.

With strong production numbers both refineries will be able to benefit from an increase in the alumina spot price.

The price was $239 metric tonne at the end of the quarter following a high in May of $263mt.

This is a strong recovery from early January when the price was below $200mt, the lowest price for alumina for at least the past five years.

But the pressure on Rio Tinto's Gladstone refineries continues, with the price well below historical levels. This time last year the alumina spot price was more than $300mt and it had not dropped below that mark since June 2011.

Metal analysts suggest there is still downward pressure on alumina prices, with the Platts' alumina assessment falling $6.50mt since July 11.

There were reports of a 30,000mt cargo from Gladstone being traded twice on Friday.

The Chinese importer resold to its Gladstone producer, Yarwun or QAL, at $237mt and then it was sold for $239mt to a smelter.

These fluctuations in the market continue as Chinese demand for alumina remains low and supply remains high, putting more pressure on the export of Gladstone's alumina.

Boyne Smelters continued to truck along in the June quarter.

The smelter produced 145,000t of aluminium for the second quarter in a row and this has varied by just 1000t in the past five quarters.