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Fortescue Metals Group has achieved record quarterly shipments in Q1 2020 despite the impact of the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. This result underpins an upgrade to the company’s full year guidance for shipments.

The company shipped 42.3 million tonnes, an increase by 10% from the 38.3 million tonnes shipped in the same quarter last year.

As a result, guidance for shipments in the 2020 financial year will also increase from 175 million tonnes (Mt) to 177Mt.

As of March 31, Fortescue has nestled a healthy $4.2bn of free cashflow.

Capital expenditure (capex) for the 2020 financial year will be updated from $2bn to $2.2bn as a result of the company’s major growth projects.

Fortescue CEO Elizabeth Gaines said: “The health and safety of our people, their families and the broader community is our priority, and we have been responsive to the unprecedented global COVID-19 health pandemic and economic crisis.

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“Fortescue’s strong operating performance in the March quarter has delivered record shipments, increasing ten per cent compared to the prior comparable quarter, and a two per cent reduction in C1 costs maintaining our industry leading cost position.

“While the global economic outlook remains uncertain, our balance sheet has never been stronger and we continue to generate sustained cashflows and jobs, invest in growth and focus on delivering returns to our shareholders.”

Last July, Fortescue Metals Group began construction on the Eliwana iron ore mine and rail project, following a sod-turning ceremony in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA).

Earthworks on Stage 1 of the railway at the Eliwana project were completed during the first quarter, including preparation for first track laying, the first steel erection for the ore processing facility, and also the completion of the permanent village and aerodrome.

Pre-strip mining at Eliwana is expected to start in the first quarter of the next financial year.