United Co. Rusal PLC said Feb. 28 that aluminum production in the fourth quarter of 2019 totaled 949,000 tonnes, slightly up from 942,000 tonnes in the third quarter, while aluminum sales increased 1.5% quarterly to 1.11 million tonnes.
Alumina production for the period grew 4.7% quarterly to 2.05 Mt, while bauxite production rose 2.0% to 4.03 Mt. Production of nepheline ore, a raw material used for aluminum production, totaled 1.07 Mt, a 5.6% increase.
Group aluminum production for full-year 2019 totaled 3.76 Mt, in line with 2018 figures. Aluminum sales, however, increased 13.8% to 4.18 Mt on the back of a partial sell-down of surplus primary aluminum inventories accumulated in the midst of U.S. sanctions imposed in 2018, which were lifted in January 2019.
During the year ended Dec. 31, 2019, alumina output increased 1.1% to 7.86 Mt. Meanwhile, bauxite output totaled 16.05 Mt, a 15.9% increase, and nepheline ore output inched down 1.1% to 4.24 Mt.
The increases in alumina and bauxite output were due to the gradual production ramp-up at the Friguia operation in Guinea, with the Dian Dian deposit in Guinea reaching full capacity also contributing to the bauxite production increase.
The Russian aluminum producer expects the coronavirus outbreak to negatively affect the Chinese aluminum market in the first half, with the expectation of a bigger supply surplus and weak demand. A lower aluminum demand in China, coupled with an inventory surplus, may hit prices and ultimately result in a delay in the ramp-up of new aluminum smelting capacity.
Rusal's shares were down 4% in mid-day trading in Hong Kong on Feb. 28.