This Morning in Metals: Rio Tinto, union resume negotiations at BC Works

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This morning in metals news: Rio Tinto this week returning to the negotiating table with the union representing workers at the BC Works aluminum smelter; meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported multifactor productivity fell in 61 of the 84 manufacturing industries in 2019; and, lastly, miner BHP earlier this month reported its financial results for the year ending June 30, 2021.

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Rio Tinto, union resume talks at BC Works

Rio Tinto sign

Argus/Adobe Stock

Rio Tinto and Unifor Local 231 have resumed negotiations at the firm’s BC Works aluminum smelter.

In late July, approximately 900 workers at the plant in Kitimat, British Columbia, went on strike, the CBC reported.

“After working until 2:30 am last night, we were expecting some big moves from the Company this morning,” the union said in a July 24 bulletin posted to its website. “Unfortunately, the Company came back to the table with absolutely nothing. Instead, they offered that we engage in joint mediation through the Labour Board.”

This week, Rio Tinto said the sides had returned to the bargaining table.

“Starting 24 August, we have returned to the bargaining table to resume negotiations,” Rio Tinto said in a statement this week. “Our conversations will tackle the outstanding issues. If successful, Rio Tinto and Unifor Local 2301 will develop a plan to return to work that will guide what needs to be done from the time an agreement is reached until we ramp up to full production with all pots back in operation.”

According to information on the company’s website, the plant produces 329 kt of aluminum annually. Aluminum from the plant goes primarily to customers in Japan, South Korea and the United States.

The smelter began operations in 1954.

Productivity in 2019 falls in majority of NAICS manufacturing industries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported multifactor productivity in 61 of 84 four-digit NAICS manufacturing industries declined in 2019.

In 2018, productivity declined in 38 of those industries.

“Eight of the nine largest 4-digit NAICS manufacturing industries (those with employment over 350,000) had decreasing multifactor productivity in 2019,” the BLS reported. “Only the aerospace products and parts industry had rising multifactor productivity. Output fell or was unchanged from 2018 in all nine industries, with the largest decline occurring in printing and related support activities (-5.7 percent).”

The BLS defines multifactor productivity as output per unit of combined inputs.

BHP reports annual results

Lastly, miner BHP reported underlying EBITDA of $37.4 billion at a record margin of 64% for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021. The firm reported underlying EBITDA of $22.1 billion the previous year.

Profit from operations rose 80% to $25.9 billion. Meanwhile, dividends per share rose by 151% to $3.01 per share.

“We continue to actively position our portfolio as well for future returns and growth,” CEO Mike Henry said. “We have progressed exploration and development in copper and nickel, commodities which are favourably leveraged to the mega-trends of electrification and decarbonisation.”

In that vein, the annual report touted the miner’s climate-related initiatives. Last year, BHP signed a renewable power purchasing agreement to meet half of its electricity needs at its Queensland Coal operations from low-emissions sources.

Furthermore, the company signed renewable power contracts for its Escondida and Spence operations. BHP said it aims to achieve 100% renewable supply at both operations by the mid-2020s.

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