THE first shipment of bauxite from Rio Tinto’s Amrun project on Cape York departed six weeks ahead of schedule, bound for Gladstone.

More than 80,000 tonnes of bauxite was loaded on to the RTM Weipa (IMO 9341938) bound for Rio Tinto’s Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone.

Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios said bringing Amrun online further strengthens Rio Tinto’s position as a leading supplier in the seaborne market.

“We have the largest bauxite resources in the industry and are geographically well positioned to supply China’s significant future import needs, as well as supporting our refinery and smelting operations in Australia and New Zealand,” he said.

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Federal minister for resources and northern Australia Matt Canavan congratulated Rio Tinto on its first shipment from the facility.

“We are already the world’s biggest bauxite producer and alumina exporter, and product from the Amrun site is expected to boost our bauxite exports by another 10m tonnes per year,” he said.

“More than 1,200 people worked on the site during construction, with 178 of them being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Shipping the raw product to Gladstone for refining further contributes to the wealth and jobs of that city.”

The Amrun project is forecast to reach its full annual production rate of almost 23m tonnes next year.

The first shipment is due to arrive in Gladstone next week.

RTM Weipa is a 90,338 DWT, Singapore-flagged bulker.

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