Rio Tinto Hits Iron Ore Output Shipment Records

Rio Tinto Hits Iron Ore Output, Shipment Records

Iron ore shipments were up 6% quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of 2013 and production was 3% higher, boosting annual readings for both by 5% compared with 2012.

SYDNEY -- Mining giant Rio Tinto (IW 1000/352) unveiled fresh production and shipment records for its flagship iron ore business Thursday, with both up 5% on-year in 2013.

Anglo-Australian Rio said iron ore shipments were up 6% quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of 2013 and production was 3% higher, boosting annual readings for both by 5% compared with 2012.

Iron ore output for 2013 was 266 million tonnes, one million tons ahead of guidance despite a cyclone forcing operations to shut down for several days in December.

"These are excellent fourth quarter operational results, demonstrating continued delivery on our commitments," said Rio chief Sam Walsh.

"We have set new records for iron ore production and shipments as we ramp up our 290 (million tons per annum) expansion, as well as achieving an impressive recovery in copper volumes and record annual production for both bauxite and thermal coal."

Production was up across the board for Rio, with steelmaking coal ahead  2% at 8.2 million tons and thermal coal burned to produce electricity 12% better at 26.8 million tons.

Bauxite was up 10% (43.2 million tons) and aluminum 3% (3.5 million tons), with a significant 15% boost to copper, where production (631,500 tons) beat guidance (590,000 tons).

The robust production update follows Rio publishing dramatic spending cuts last month due to soft commodity prices and a volatile outlook, with plans to halve capital expenditure by 2015 in a bid to bolster the bottom line.

Rio posted a 72% slump in first-half profit to $1.72 billion in August, off the back of a loss in 2012 -- Rio's first in 18 years -- that cost then-chief Tom Albanese his job. Walsh was brought in with orders to bring the company back into the black, despite softening commodity prices as China's economy slows and greater supply comes online.

He has reduced Rio's workforce by 3,800 since June 2012, with another 3,000 jobs divested out of the company as part of a $3.3 billion sell-off of various coal, gold, copper and nickel assets.

Operating costs were slashed by some 2 billion in 2013 and exploration and evaluation spending was halved to 948 million from 1.97 billion the previous year.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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