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VALE SA (VALE) Q3 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

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VALE earnings call for the period ending September 30, 2021.

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VALE SA (VALE -1.93%)
Q3 2021 Earnings Call
Oct 29, 2021, 11:00 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Vale's conference call to discuss the third quarter 2021 results. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded, and the recording will be available on the company's website at at Investors Link. This conference call is accompanied by slide presentation, also available at Investors link at the company's website and is transmitted via Internet as well. The broadcasting via Internet, both the audio and the slide change has a few seconds delay in relation to the audio transmitted via phone.

Before proceeding, let me mention the forward-looking statements are being made under the safe harbor of the Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1996. Actual performance could differ materially from that anticipated in any forward-looking comments as a result of macroeconomic conditions, market risks and other factors. With us today are Mr. Eduardo de Salles Bartolomeo, Chief Executive Officer; Mr. Luciano Siani Pires, Executive Vice President, Finance and Investor Relations; Mr. Marcello Spinelli, Executive Vice President, Iron Ore; Mr. Mark Travers, Executive Vice President, Base Metals; and Mr. Alexandre D'Ambrosio, Executive Vice President, Legal and Tax. First, Mr. Eduardo Bartolomeo will proceed to the presentation on Vale's third quarter 2021 performance.

And after that, he'll be available for questions and answers. It's now my pleasure to turn the call over to Mr. Eduardo Bartolomeo. Sir, you may now begin.

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Eduardo de Salles Bartolomeo -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you. Good morning, everyone. I hope you are all fine. Regarding COVID, the vaccination of our employees is progressing very well, in line with actions of the public healthcare system. We have already 90% of our own workforce with at least one vaccine shot in Brazil. We are gradually resuming activity in our offices. Today, for example, we are almost altogether at the company's headquarter for this conversation for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

With our guard up, we are getting back to a normal routine, keeping our focus on safety and people. We continue to work with the authorities to implement the BRL37.7 billion agreement for the integral reparation in Brumadinho, signed in February of this year. By the end of the third quarter, we had disbursed almost BRL four billion for our payable obligations and actions for environmental recovery. This expenditure should reach BRL13 billion by the end of 2021.

The individual damage compensation also continues with over 11,400 people covered by civil or labor indemnification agreements entered within to Vale. We remain committed to repairing Brumadinho in a agile, fair and quick way. We are also advancing on our ESG agenda. In our new package society, we renounced our mining rights in indigenous lands in Brazil. On the social front, we donated more than 600,000 food baskets to the families in the situation of food insecurity in Brazil, an action in partnership with civil society entities and volunteers. By the end of the year, we must reach one million food baskets for over 200,000 families.

One of our purpose on the social front is to contribute to the strengthening of autonomous and resilient communities, through education, health and income generation programs. To do this, we are defining our new social ambition and redesigning our goals as we did on our journey toward a low carbon mining. Our social agenda is increasing its strength, and we expect to announce further details on the Vale Day 2021. On the climate agenda, we are pleased to announce some important advances this quarter. In scope three emissions reduction, we achieved some milestones. In July, the Port of Tubarao received the first ore carrier with rotor sails system.

And in August, our Ponta da Madeira terminal received the first vessel with air-lubrication technology, which creates a sort of carpet of air bubbles between the ship and the water. Both technologies increased energy efficiency by up to 8%. Still in August, we announced our partnership with Ternium, the largest steelmaker in Latin America to develop decarbonization solutions. Finally, in September, we announced the briquette, an innovative iron ore agglomerate, which can curb CO2 emissions of our still making clients by more than 10%.

The briquette is the result of years of research and developed by Vale. We already have three plants under construction, an investment of $185 million. We are assessing the feasibility of building another five plants for a potential production capacity of 50 million tons per year. With that, we are well positioned to lead the way in reducing scope three emissions with innovative technologies and a portfolio of high-quality products, essential for the low-carbon economy transition. Now focusing on our performance this quarter. We produced close to 90 million tons of iron ore, 18% higher than the previous quarter. In these nine months, we increased our production by 8% compared to 2020.

On the resumption, we had an important progress in the Vargem Grande complex with the operational start-up of the Maravilhas III dam and the commissioning of the long-distance conveyor belt. With this release, we unlocked another six million tons of annual capacity. We continue to move forward with a safe operational resumption in a year still marked by COVID-19 restrictions. Spinelli will give you more details about our performance in iron ore soon. Well, in nickel, our performance was impacted by two important events. First, the labor disruption in Sudbury.

In August, we reached a five year collective bargaining agreement and we started operations in September. In Onca Puma, we had a longer maintenance due to COVID safety measures with production resumption by the end of September as well. We will continue to work toward great operational reliability, particularly in the base metals business. Our entire management team is committed to this. And we continue with our discipline in capital allocation.

Our cash generation, in addition to supporting the reparation, business safety and the resumption of operations allow us to return value to our shareholders as our recent track record of dividend payments makes clear. We ended the quarter with a strong cash generation of $7.8 billion, $1.2 billion higher than the second quarter. Sticking to our value over volume strategy, we will continue to create and share value with our shareholders. With consistency in dividend payout and with our buyback program almost a 100% complete, our Board of Directors has just approved a new buyback program. This time for up to 200 million shares, equivalent to 4.1% of outstanding shares.

Our buyback program shows our confidence in Vale's potential to create value. To conclude, I want to reinforce that we are making progress with our derisking, reshaping and rerating to build a better value. To recap in the derisking, we are implementing the agreement for the integral reparation of Brumadinho with total payments of BRL13 billion expected by the end of 2021. We're executing our dam decharacterization program. We expect to eliminate one more structure by the end of this year, totaling seven completed structures.

We continue to resume our production with the release of the long-distance conveyor belt and the start-up of Maravilhas III dams in Vargem Grande. And our next big deliver is Brucutu and Itabira. The works of the Torto dam are advancing, and the filtration plants have a fiscal progress higher than 80%, as you can see in this pictures. Finally, we are committed to increase the reliability of our operations. Transforming the base metals business is one of our top priorities for 2022. In reshaping, we are moving toward divesting the collaboration with good prospects until the end of the year. In fact, in coal, we expect an important cash generation in the fourth quarter due to excellent market conditions.

We also expect to complete the divestment of manganese assets, and as a result, we will move forward with the divestment of other noncore access. In the rerating, we continue to implement our management model, the VPS.

We continue to work hard on Vale's culture transformation, and we are moving forward with our agenda and commitments to transform ourselves into a more sustainable mining company and engaged in metals' relevance to society. I would like to conclude by thanking Luciano for his excellent work in charge of Vale's Finance and Investor Relations area since 2012, and I'm sure that he'll make a significant contribution for the future of the company as our new Executive Vice President of Strategy and Business Transformation. I also would like to welcome Gustavo Pimenta, our New Executive Vice President of Finance and Investor Relations. Gustavo Brings his global experience and a renewed vision to our business.

Now I hand it over to Spinelli, who will give more details about the performance in iron ore. Thank you very much.

Marcello Magistrini Spinelli -- Executive Vice President, IRR

Thank you, Eduardo. Good morning, good evening. I want to start my presentation giving you an update about the resumption plan. We had a chance to go in details in our last investor tour. If you need more information, you can find in our website. But Vargem Grande, as Eduardo said, is almost there step by step. Maravilhas III is now running. And the long-distance conveyor belt just added six million tons of capacity. So we reached 341 million tons of capacity as we planned.

Now moving to production overview. In Q3, we produced almost 90 million tons due to the seasonality coming from the rainy season to the dry season, improving the northern system. Vargem Grande, as I mentioned, is in ramp-up. Itabira is running really well, much more efficient. And we have the full operation in Fabrica. But I want to drag your attention to the northern system. As we presented also in the last investor tour, we expect a smooth ramp up to reach 240 million tons of production there. S11D is a brand-new product.

You know very well, truckless system, low opex, but we are still in a learning curve in S11D. We've been improving our ore bottle knowledge. We found more gestalite than we expected. Gestalite is a very compact waste material. And as the system there is less flexible than the conventional system, we need to crush this material in the mine side. So to address this, small rocks, we are installing the able crushers. We have one already installed. Now we have the other three. We're going to do this in the next quarters. And to solve bigger rocks, we need to install a bigger crusher that will be ready in three years. But till then, we're going to stockpile this rocks in the mine side. But we have good news from the northern system. Several actions and assets are coming online, such as the plus 10, the expansion S11D, the plus 20, Gelado.

On Northern branch, we have N3, N2 and 1, and east range. All of them together will support the ramp-up of 240 million tonnes. Well, you may ask us about the gap between production and sales. Last year, we had the same problem. And you remember that we have -- and we will have a production seasonality comparing to Q2 and Q3, and we need to add the supply chain extension, the blending process time. Remember that we will have some volume adjustments. Don't forget, as an example, if you produce pellets, we reduce 10% of the mass.

But all this together, we could expect a gap of eight million to nine million tons, but we had an additional four million tons. We decided to delay the sales of the stand-alone high silica and blend with Carajas to form the BRBF later. So that's the beauty of the supply chain flexibility we have in Vale. We can daily take decisions to maximize our margin. You also may ask about why margin or volume at this level of price. So don't forget, we also have in this analysis. The discount of the product totally related to the demand and the freight. And in this case, this time of the year, we have the spot freight. As a marginal product, we need to consider the spot freight.

And we are participants of this market, the spot market, as if you put more pressure or less pressure, we can increase or decrease the impact for the whole portfolio of Vale. So all this together, we decided to delay this sales. We didn't decide yet due to the market condition to replenish this high silica stand-alone product. So we are not producing this yet. So that's the reason our production guidance is 315 million to 335 million.

We didn't change that, but we are in the -- lower than the middle of the range of the guidance. What we can expect for the production in 2022? So you always ask us about the guidance for next year. We are going to announce only in the validating the end of November. But what we can consider in our rationale to define this range for next year? Firstly, the resumption plan. The following increase of capacity will come more in the end of next year, like Torto, Gelado, we will add more volume.

But as Eduardo said, don't we need to understand that the guidance is related to volumes, but we are increasing the quality since the beginning of the year with the filtration in Itabira and Brucutu. But we're going to increase more volumes in the end of the year. We're going to run most part of the year with 343 million tons of capacity. Vale with volume. Second point is our mantra. So if you have capacity and we don't have demand, we're not going to use the total capacity.

One example is due to this market conditions today, we can reduce the production of the high silica stand-alone that is still available. Every time we increase the quality, the process to increase the quality, we're going to leave this kind of product, but we have 12 million to 15 million tons that we can reduce in our capacity and produced last year. That's an example. And third, we also consider buffers for some production setback. If you have any variation, any anomaly in our production, we consider in our planning. So all of this together will be part of the definition of the production guidance for 2022. I'll stay here for further questions. I pass now to Luciano Siani.

Luciano Siani Pires -- Executive Vice President Finance and Investor Relations

Okay. I'll start my commentary on the results by the elephant in the room, which is the wild variation of EBITDA estimates from what we actually posted. And this chart you see here, usually, we bring this on our releases, but now we're bringing more detail. It shows the value realized prices compared to the average of the quarter. And there are two large red bars here that represent misses in revenue with a direct impact on EBITDA. And why those large bars?

Because we had an unprecedented quarter in terms of price swings. Reminder, we started the quarter with $207 per ton prices. That was exactly what was provisioned for the sales which were open at the end of the second quarter, and we ended the third quarter with the same provisional prices for the sales opened in the third quarter of $117. So it's a $90 swing in the space of three months. That creates those types of effects. The first effect, the minus 8.2 miss in realized prices relates exactly to the open sales. We bring the numbers here, 18 million tonnes, which were open and provision at $207 per ton. They were actually realized at $176 million.

So that difference of $30 was revenue and EBITDA that was recorded in the second quarter that shouldn't have been recorded. So the way to deal with that is you need to reduce revenues in the third quarter and give back those revenues in EBITDA when you account for this. The second big effect you read on the call on provisional prices in the current quarter, $14.8 negative per ton and a total effect which with of almost USD one billion, absolute numbers, is exactly the 22 million tons that we have outstanding. So sales which were not yet settled. Provision at $117 compared to the average of the quarter of $163. So this is actually -- we can call it an opportunity cost, right? If I -- if we had sold those tons at the average price for the quarter, we would have realized $1 billion additional revenue, but that's not the case.

And some of you might have done the calculation with the entire volume sold by Vale at the average price for the quarter. And as I just explained, part of this is provision at much lower prices. So that's the reason behind the important decline in EBITDA compared to the -- when you look at the average prices for the quarter. Moving into cash flows. You saw that the cash conversion was actually more than 100%, which means we generated more cash than EBITDA, which is also odd. And the reason for this is because of the cash collections of the open sales from the second quarter. And you might have noticed a variation of working capital above USD three billion. So about USD two billion of it is explained by the change in accounts receivable.

So we collected a lot of sales from previous periods at very high prices. And the open sales for this period are recorded at much lower prices. And there's another USD one billion actually, which is money from our clients that we still need to offset because of the decline in prices, and these offsets are ongoing in the quarter and will continue on the fourth quarter. So about $1 billion of this positive release of working capital will be reversed in the fourth quarter as we do the settlements with our clients and give them back the excess invoices at much higher prices. To notice as well that this quarter will be heavy in terms of Brumadinho cash outflows. Eduardo already mentioned that, BRL nine billion approximately. And also first quarter of '22 will also have a heavy bill to be paid in terms of cash taxes collection.

So we -- if you notice, the cash taxes are -- there's a lag between cash taxes and the economic profit that we are generating. There's an annual settlement every first quarter of the year, they should be paid then. Moving to iron ore. The commentary on costs. You see costs going sideways. There's a slight increase from 17.8 to 18.1. You are observing in the industry a lot of inflationary pressures, specifically in Brazil, the price index reached two digits in the past 12 months in the quarter. And many of the contracts that were expiring and being renewed were subject to renewal pressures from those indexes. So that's flowing through higher costs in the quarter.

Another effect is that the cost of goods sold in this quarter is also tied to the production costs of the second quarter, which were -- production was of a smaller volume, less cost dilution. It takes some time, a couple of months for that -- those production cost to flow through and become cost of goods sold. So therefore, that explains why costs haven't yet decreased due to cost dilution. That will happen in the next quarter. So we continue to expect because again, of the large 90 million ton production in the third quarter, we expect cost dilution to pour over into the fourth quarter and still bring us about $1.50 per ton reduction in cost. There is a headwind, which is the collective bargaining in Brazil. Whatever number we settle will be high because of high inflation. That goes -- that has one-off effects in terms of provisions for -- especially for profit sharing. But also, we have tailwinds. The exchange rate is more depreciated in Brazil than we initially expected when we made that provision.

Those effects may offset each other. Another important cost component is freight. You saw the increase from 17.7 to 20.6. That obviously was because of the increase in bunker prices and the dramatic increase in spot freight rates. But as you can see, our sensitivity to those variables is nowhere near the market rate. So it shows how assertive is our strategy of having those very large ore carriers contracted for the long run. For the fourth quarter, you should expect a small increase in $100 per ton, basically because the average spot rate should be higher in the fourth quarter than in the third. However, as Spinelli mentioned, we are taking some high silicon material from the market from now on. So therefore, we will be less exposed to spot than we initially envisioned. And so that compensates this slightly. My last comment is on coal.

First, performance and then a comment on the impairment. In terms of performance, September, we generated $43 million of EBITDA. In addition to that, we had a negative impact of $27 million because of thermal coal hedge. You can see that number in the footnotes to the financial statement. So therefore, if it wasn't for the hedge, we would have generated $70 million of EBITDA in just one single month. And also, if you look in the release, coal is very much influenced by lag prices. We have, on average, thermal and metallurgical coal, about $35 prices lower in September than we should have had because of those lag prices.

So we could have had another $30 million of EBITDA in the month if we had the proper prices, which will come down in October. So I'm saying all of this just to highlight that the business is running at $100 million per month run rate at today's prices. So the question might be, so why impair the assets? The issue here is that no potential buyer will buy the coal assets based on today's prices, nor it will buy the coal assets based on the business plan that we have not yet delivered.

This asset under normalized conditions requires 12 million, 13 million tons of production in order to break even, and we haven't achieved that. So we expect most of the proceeds and economic value from a potential sale to come from a contingent, let's say, contingent economic value-based on volumes and on prices. So probably the upfront value to be received will be smaller because we will not be able, even if we do a sale with contingent receivables based on volume and on price.

To record those as assets, the good practice in accounting recommend us to impair the assets. And it wouldn't make sense to take out USD2.3 billion and try to find out exactly how much we would receive upfront. We don't know that because we haven't yet received the binding offers. So we decided to be conservative and go all the way down to 0. But the consequences will be that probably we will have a sale for economic value. And part of it will not, as I said, be recorded because they will be contingent. So we're almost at the half hour.

We'll be opening now for questions and answers.

Questions and Answers:


[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Carlos De Alba from Morgan Stanley. Your audio is available.

Carlos De Alba -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Luciano, it had been great working with you as CFO. All the best in your new enduring position. The question I have first is if you could comment maybe on an update of how do you see the Brumadinho payment schedule in the coming quarters? That will be quite useful as it hits both the income statement as well as the cash flow. And second, maybe just, Spinelli, if you could clarify or maybe explain a little bit more, maybe I missed it. But if you could explain the dynamics between iron ore production and shipments that you see for the fourth quarter and perhaps for the first and second quarter in light of the ramp-up in production, but also the reduction in the steel production in China that is taking place right now.

Luciano Siani Pires -- Executive Vice President Finance and Investor Relations

Carlos, thanks very much for your kind comments. The cash outflows for Brumadinho, I believe in one of our prior presentation, which is on our website, there is an estimate that we haven't been updating because it's still current. I don't have the numbers top of my mind, but I -- the numbers will still be very high in 2022, similar to this year, which I believe are going to be close to $2.5 billion. So there will be a lot because although there's a heavy concentration of payments for the obligations to pay this year, next year, we will have less obligations to pay, but there will be an acceleration of the obligations to perform. The projects will start to come from design to execution. So we will have those sorts of payments. And then we have for '23, then we start a decline. Also another heavy year, but a significant release of outflows just from '24 onwards.

Marcello Magistrini Spinelli -- Executive Vice President, IRR

Carlos, thank you for your question. Dynamics between production and sales for next quarter of Q4, we believe will be like the last year, the same level of production and say, we don't see any gap, and even in the first quarter. The supply demand, considering what's going on in China, we need to -- we understand that we have a slowdown in China due to the disruption in energy rationing and also property. The industry is healthy. We have good margins. We have a good price for steel, but they are tracking to go after this target of energy consumption. And the beginning of the next year, definitely, there is another event that is the Olympics that can make some pressure in the downstream demand and also the CSP production. But we see a rebound after that. And the point we must check not only our volumes, production and sales, but also the supply that we see in the seaborne market. In China, we have a dynamics, but in the other part of the world, the ex-China, we have a very heated market going really well today in terms of production and demand. And our check should be related to the seaborne coming from other parts of the world. Like in Brazil, we expect to sell more in Brazil last year than this year. That's the trend we see in India. That's the trend we see in CIS and even supply coming from Australia in a lower level than this year. So that's a balance we can see in China that will be important for you. We have a number of reduction, 40 million tons of iron ore next year in the supply of the seaborne market. So that's the point. But our gap will be 0 in terms of production and sales.


Our next question comes from Jonathan Brandt from HSBC. Your audio is available.

Jonathan L. Brandt -- HSBC, Research -- Analyst

Luciano, I'd just like to echo the comments. It's been great working with you and best of luck in your new role. Spinelli, I'm hoping you can maybe elaborate a little bit more on Chinese demand next year. So obviously, it's going through a bit of a tough time now given the Olympics and the energy issues. But what are you seeing next year? What gives you the confidence to say that Chinese steel production will pick up in 2022 rather than sort of trend along at current levels? I guess that's my first question. And then my second question, it's kind of a generic one. I mean, obviously, you've had a lot of disruptions in your operations, whether it's iron ore or base metals. And I guess I'm not necessarily talking about the labor issues in Canada, but more with the disruptions in Brazil from the licensing issues that forces you to go to the courts and things like that. So -- and obviously, you react to each situation, but it certainly takes a lot of management time and effort. And I know that there's this ambition to be a more stable and sustainable mining company. So I'm hoping you can maybe touch upon what you can do to proactively minimize these disruptions and prevent them from happening going forward?

Marcello Magistrini Spinelli -- Executive Vice President, IRR

Thank you, Jonathan. Spinelli here. Well, let me clarify what I was just mentioned to Carlos. We see definitely a slowdown in China, a smooth slowdown. I think more now this year that they already achieved the goals for the fourth five year plan. COVID is OK. GDP is OK. Energy conception is not OK yet now, better than the last quarter. So they need to reduce that. That's the point that I was mentioning. What I see for next year -- for this year, we see the goal to -- of CSP probably less or equal or less than last year, 1.065 billion or less. We can consider a gap here, a range here of 10 million to 15 million tons less or the peak in -- we can see the same of last year. And for next year, will be above one billion, but less than this year probably. What I'm saying that we can have a seasonality with more -- with a rebound. After all this pressure coming in the short term, that can bring more volatility to this moment, but can be more in place -- the demand in place after the first quarter or in the end of the first quarter. What I was saying that despite China is slowing down, we have ex-China growing. The CSP that we see for next year, they are coming from 900 million tons of CSP. They can go to 940 million, 950 million. And the other point is the balance of supply demand. When we see the seaborne that can supply China, we see some other forces coming when you have the domestic market of many of these producers like Brazil or India or other places. They are consuming the iron ore in their domestic market. So that's our view. A supply demand that will be more balanced after the first quarter, but definitely, there will be a reduction in China, but a growth in ex-China.

Eduardo de Salles Bartolomeo -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Spinelli. Jonathan, thanks for your question. I think it's very appropriate because it's in the core, it's a lot speaking, OK, is in the core of what we're doing here since I arrived, and I think your question is extremely relevant to us. I would put the situation in two sides. One exogenous and one endogenous, if the word is right in English. Something that is up to us and not something that is currently out of our control in coals. When you see that the disruption in the licensing of Onca Puma, actually is a discussion between conditions and the license that we believe are fulfilled. And that's a minor issue and didn't impact, by the way, any moment the Onca Puma production. So I don't think it's a relevant issue here. I'm much more concerned about the indigenous issues that are related to our operational stability, as you pointed out. When we go, for instance, for the fire in Salobo mine and the problems that we have in the mine movement during the year, goes to the core of what we call -- and I mentioned that in my speech about our management model that were implemented or was implemented with extremely success in the railways of Vale. We have one of the best railways in the world, and it's there where we can manage to see what means stability -- operating stability means. So that's what we're trying to bring. We assess that. We have levels of maturity for each of the dimension of this model. It's not from Vale. So it's a coal, other business have similar. The obvious one is the TPS. TPS is the father, all of the management model systems who is acquainted with that, we will understand what I'm trying to say. And obviously, the maturity level, when you look at the technical dimension or the leadership or the method at Vale as a whole is still very low. When you go to this excellence isles that we have inside Vale, see there is high. So I'm pretty comfortable that the work that we are doing together with a culture transformation and safety is the same as production. We say here that in Vale, there is no production before safety because there is no production really without it. So being stable, being able to control your process, have the people engaged in the right manner, to do what is expected from him, from that process will results -- will result in adequate result and stability, and with less disruptions as we do have in the railway, for instance, as I have mentioned. We are pretty comfortable even in base metals business. I've just been in Long Harbor. We are hitting the record in production for Long Harbor, and we are going to see what they've been doing there. Right people, right process, safety and production. So it's not rocket science, but takes people, takes engagement. So that's what I believe and my team is fully committed with that. We understand that we have a gap between our competitors, that is, by the way, translated in our opportunities on our sea ones, even in iron ore. With last, I think iron ore has had the good year in stability. I believe all the RR plants that we were supposed to resume, we resumed on how we have planned. But anyhow, as I mentioned in my speech initially, base metal is the big focus, but we are very confident that we are doing the right thing. And we'll get there for sure. Thanks for your question.


[Operator Instructions] Our next question comes from Andreas Bokkenheuser from UBS. Your audio is available.

Andreas Bokkenheuser -- UBS Investment -- Analyst

Also echoing my appreciation to you, Luciano. Thank you very much for all your time and availability over the years. And especially your patience with us going through the numbers. So thank you very much for that. It seems very fitting that I kind of direct my first question to you. This is something we've been talking about over the last 6, eight quarters, I think. It's just kind of the longer-term cost or unit cost outlook for Vale. Management has been saying that you still intend to get back to kind of the early 30s levels overall, where it's where used to be pre Brumadinho. Does that change now? Because you've obviously talked about maybe you're going to be producing less iron ore than you have capacity for. And if you don't produce as much iron ore, does that mean that your cost dilution effectively add something smaller and then your unit costs end up being higher? Is that how to think about it? Or does it still drop because you're taking high cost production offline? Is that the way to think about? That's the first question.

Luciano Siani Pires -- Executive Vice President Finance and Investor Relations

Andreas, very much appreciate your kind words, same for Jonathan. Thank you very much, and it has been a pleasure all these years as well. There's a number of effects playing, right, in our current cost position. So first effect is a pro cyclical increase in costs, right, which you're seeing across the entire industry. So we see this, for example, in higher oil costs, higher freight costs, higher royalties. In the case of Vale, a higher purchase price for third-party ores, which although the volume is small because the prices are so high, it makes a difference for the C1 base. So this concerns us less because it's easily reversible over the long term. The second theme is about what you just mentioned is normalized production. When it normalizes, what to expect. We continue to believe that there's about a $5 gap that we can bridge just by bringing production to normalized levels. And that has a number of effects. The first one is obviously diluting costs. You have operations, for example, which take Brucutu, for example, which could be operating at 30 million tons. You have everything there to do it, all the fixed costs, and you're still producing just 12. And now with the high silica products in the past quarter, 15. So cost dilution is an important driver. The second thing is the elimination of distortions in the way we produce. Again, take Brucutu, for example, instead of using a pipeline to deposit tailings on the dam, like we're basically trucking the tailings and sometimes with more than one operation. So you put the tailings on a particular place, then you load it again and you truck it again and you deposit it by truck. So this creates all sorts of additional cost. And finally, third, even the -- if you look at the release and you have that credit for quality, even that is being jeopardized by the way we're producing today. Spinelli mentioned, for example, that when the filtrations come in, we're going to improve substantially the quality of the production that we already have. And therefore, we will improve price realization, and that will help reach part of those $5. So with all of this, if you do the math and try to normalize, we still believe it's appropriate to target about a $35 per ton, all-in costs and including sustaining capital, which again is distorted as well because we are spending a lot of money to build, for example, the filtration plants I just mentioned. So everything is tied into this post Brumadinho recovery of our entire production system. Specifically, on your point about, OK, we're going to be producing less. So there will be less cost dilution. We intend to run the best mines at their full capacity. What eventually we may do is, if you were just production, if we move it from the less competitive mines. So therefore, we don't expect this to be, let's say, a drag in the overall cost performance. So we are targeting $35 per ton, and we want to be there as soon as we reach normality in our operations.


Our next question comes from John Tumazos from John Tumazos Independent Research. Your audio is available.

John Charles Tumazos -- John Tumazos -- Analyst

Once again, all love and congratulations to Luciano. It's been a tremendous joy to talk to over the years. My question concerns end market diversification for iron ore. I'm a little shocked at the 0.8 million ton per day, five months fall in Chinese steel output or 292 million tons crude steel annualized or almost 15% of world output. I think that's a biggest non-recessionary decline in steel output in any country history of the world. There's a lot of explanations, reasons. It's not my business. But it raises the question as to the desirability of China as a customer. And the benefit of moving more iron ore to Europe or the Mid-East or DRI feeds or HBI feeds, pellets and other products that have their own markets aside from China? Excuse me for my question, if it's a little difficult.

Marcello Magistrini Spinelli -- Executive Vice President, IRR

Thank you, John. It's Spinelli here. You're right. There is a trend that now is -- there's no return, that the quality trend to this new world of 0 carbon. So that's the trend. We have a delay if you compare China with the other parts of the world, as you mentioned, Europe and Middle East. And the key point here is we need to have high-quality ores to compete. And we are the most important player in the world to supply this trend. So how can you do that? We are returning with the filtration, the full capacity of Itabira and also Brucutu and the end of the year, we have Torto dam in Brucutu that we can finally have back our pellet feed production. So we are bringing back the capacity of pellets coming from 30 million tons to 60 million tons. Direct reduction is a key point here. We are already developing the briquette as a part of our strategy. To replace where -- in this transition in the next 10 years, we still have blast furnace. So we need to improve the efficiency in the blast furnace substitute to center with the briquettes with high-quality flexibility to develop this kind of product that will be really helpful for Europe and also Middle East. In China, we see the trend of quality. Despite the market can reduce, as you mentioned, there is a big market there. There's two big markets there. We're talking about one billion of production of steel. But if you consider the increase of quality, Vale is in a really good shape to compete. We see the trend in China. We are really close to them to also develop the brick at the Carajas finds in the north of Brazil is a key product today. You can see the gap today, the premiums in Carajas finds, even BRBF. So for this whole transition we see in China, even in the rest of the world, quality is the key point here. And we are really prepared in developing not only MOUs to understand what they need, but we are already investing in new products to compete.


Our next question comes from Alex Hacking from Citi. Your audio is available.

Alexander Nicholas Hacking -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Let me have my thanks to Luciano. You've been a great leader of Vale for some very difficult times, and I think all the shareholders and analysts appreciates it. With regards to freight costs, obviously, they're pretty volatile recently. Do you think there's anything structural there where you will be concerned that freight could be higher going forward? Or you think this is just a period of volatility, and then we'll settle down to more normalized freight rates again?

Marcello Magistrini Spinelli -- Executive Vice President, IRR

Thank you, Alex. Spinelli here. You know what happened in the market dynamics in freight, the early this year, we saw the supply chain disruption in order kind of markets like container and Panamaxes, touching the Capesize's business. But what happened after that? It was a combination of other factors that we don't -- we see a kind of one-off effect. We don't see as a structural problem that can see in the future. First one is related to the efficiency in China to discharge vessels waiting lines, two to three times more than the average. It was related to the Australia and China tensions and all the problems should discharge the coal and also the iron ore vessels in all the ports. And the other point is related to the energy crisis. So we had a huge mess in this market. With thermal coal going to Europe, going to China, also met coal, without their production in China, I think down wherethey are catching up the production there and stabilizing the demand. So we see now a movement that can organize better this market with the impact of the coal. And the last one that I can mention, Alex, is the seaborne market for iron ore for next year. We see last product coming from every place, from Brazil, from Australia, from India, going to China because we see these markets improving the consumption of iron ore in their domestic market. So they will relieve the freight market for the first and second quarter of next year.

Luciano Siani Pires -- Executive Vice President Finance and Investor Relations

Alex and John, let me express here my appreciation for your comments. I hope to be together in the future as well, maybe welcoming both of you in our operations here in Brazil.


Our next question comes from Andreas Bokkenheuser from UBS. Your audio is available.

Andreas Bokkenheuser -- UBS Investment -- Analyst

I just had a follow-up on the inventory strategy. So obviously, in Q3, you built some inventory. Can you just like talk us through quickly what the thinking is there? I understand it's obviously high silica product, and you weren't heavy with the price. But just kind of thinking on where we are in the price cycle. I mean, iron ore still above $100 a ton. Historically, a very high level. Arguably, iron ore price fundamentals are somewhat challenging. Inventories are rising. Chinese cutting steel production. I'm just -- I guess, I'm just worried that, is there a chance here that you basically need to destock this inventory at a later date at a lower price? And why not just sell it now that when prices are still relatively high?

Eduardo de Salles Bartolomeo -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Andreas. Sorry about the second question that we missed it from the first round. Well, we see, again, the high silica product is not a common product that we already have in our operations. When we increase the filtration and all the products, we will reduce the exposure of high silica products. But that's a marginal product. We just sold independently this product because the market was really good. But what kind of impact we have? Not only the level of the price, but the discount we need to count on that. And the other point was the freight. As a marginal cost, we are considering that we need the spot freight to move from Brazil to China. And the level of the spot freight was pressure in the margins there. So wait to sell as a BRBF in the negative margin with a stand-alone high silica was a better solution for that. But that's the reason we decide not to produce more high silica stand-alone without Carajas to blend as BRBF. But again, that's a very dynamic decision. And this quarter, we are already assessing every day this. If you have a chance to go to the market, we just can -- we have the flexibility to sell from BRBF to sell. As a individual product every day, we can do this. But that was the problem last month when we had a reduction and the level of the spot rate was really high. That was based on the decision in the last quarter. But we can change this every day, and we are already assessing the possibilities to make this happen this quarter.


This concludes today's question-and-answer session. Mr. Eduardo Bartolomeo, at this time, you may proceed with your closing statements.

Eduardo de Salles Bartolomeo -- Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Thank you. First of all, I would like to reinforce the congratulations to Luciano, and just remind everyone, he's still with us and is making -- we'll make a huge contribution in our future. And again, thanks a lot, Luciano. Welcome, Gustavo. It's, you know what I'm going to coming back to you. It's the same every quarter, but we had something. Last quarter or last six months, I was asked about super cycle. Now we're talking China bust. As a mining company, we have to be ready for any cycle. So the question is being answered is by the derisking, by the reshaping and by the rerating. The derisking bring us to the level of the game. We need to repair Brumadinho. We need to get back to our structure to produce what is needed to attend the market, embedded our ESG practice in our daily routine. Our capital discipline is untouchable. So this is not done, but it's really, really ongoing. Our reshaping has a lot of merits. We got out of VNC. We're going to exit Mozambique. We're going to focus on what we know to do and we know to do good. And when we rerate the company, it's going to exactly the answer to the question that -- that was being -- was asked before, is around being a stable, being a reliable, be a safe operator. That's when interruption on upcoming, and you're going to reward us as a C1 in the first quartile or iron ore or nickel or copper or any commodity that we will be in. So again, I would like to thank you a lot for your attention, for your interest in our call, and I hope to see either in a Vale Day or in the next call. Thanks a lot. Keep safe.


[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 61 minutes

Call participants:

Eduardo de Salles Bartolomeo -- Chief Executive Officer

Marcello Magistrini Spinelli -- Executive Vice President, IRR

Luciano Siani Pires -- Executive Vice President Finance and Investor Relations

Carlos De Alba -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Jonathan L. Brandt -- HSBC, Research -- Analyst

Andreas Bokkenheuser -- UBS Investment -- Analyst

John Charles Tumazos -- John Tumazos -- Analyst

Alexander Nicholas Hacking -- Citigroup -- Analyst

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