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Rio Tinto Q1 Output Drops Sequentially - Update

4/17/2012 2:57 AM ET

As was widely expected, mining giant Rio Tinto Plc (RTNTF.PK, RIO,RIO.L,RTPPF.PK) on Tuesday reported a 11 percent sequential decline in iron ore output for the first quarter, as it faced adverse weather in the form of cyclones and floods in Western Australia and Queensland.

Compared to a year ago, however, the miner saw a 9 percent growth in its share of iron ore production.

Global iron ore production increased 10 percent from last year to 59 million tonnes, but shipments grew only 2 percent to 54 million tonnes. The five million tonne difference was due to closure of Western Australia ports during the cyclone.

Rio Tinto's share of iron ore production increased to 45.64 million tonnes from last year's 41.88 million tonnes, but fell from 51.21 million tonnes produced in the previous quarter.

China, the main customer for iron ore, is said to be experiencing a dip in demand for the steel-making material. Reports quoting BHP Billiton Ltd.'s (BHP: Quote, BBL, BLT.L,BHP.AX) iron ore division president Ian Ashby said last month that iron ore demand is flattening in China, with growth expected to drop to single digits.

In a statement today, Rio Tinto's Chief executive Tom Albanese said, "We had a solid first quarter with increased production of iron ore, coal, bauxite, alumina and titanium dioxide compared with the first quarter of 2011. This was driven by a combination of our consistently high operating performance and reduced impact from severe weather than in 2011."

Mined copper production fell 18 percent year over year due to anticipated lower grades at Kennecott Utah Copper. Sequentially, the drop was 13 percent.

Bauxite production rose 10 percent from last year but fell 7 percent from the preceding quarter. Alumina production advanced 13 per cent from last year and 2 percent from last quarter.

Aluminum output dropped 9 percent reflecting the orderly shutdown of two thirds of capacity at Alma, due to labour disruption, and the closure of Lynemouth. The drop was 11 percent sequentially.

Hard coking coal production increased five per cent from last March quarter, but plunged 35 percent from the previous quarter.

In 2012, Rio Tinto expects to produce around 250 million tonnes from its global operations in Australia and Canada, subject to weather constraints. The miner's share of iron ore production in 2011 was 191.77 million tonnes.

The stock fell nearly half a percent on the ASX to close at A$64.70.

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by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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