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Rio Tinto Q4 Iron Ore Shipments Down 3%

Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Plc (RTNTF,RIO,RIO.L, RTPPF) reported Pilbara iron ore shipments of 87.4 million tonnes (100 per cent basis) in the fourth-quarter were three per cent lower than the fourth-quarter quarter of 2017.

The fourth-quarter Pilbara iron ore production of 86.6 million tonnes (Rio Tinto share 72.2 million tonnes) was one per cent lower than the fourth-quarter of 2017.

Pilbara operations produced 337.8 million tonnes (Rio Tinto share 281.8 million tonnes) in 2018, two per cent higher than 2017, at the upper end of guidance. The production performance is attributable to the ramp-up of expanded mines and minimal weather events.

2018 sales of 338.2 million tonnes (Rio Tinto share 280.8 million tonnes) were two per cent higher than 2017, whilst fourth quarter sales of 87.4 million tonnes (Rio Tinto share 72.7 million tonnes) were three per cent lower than the same period of last year.

Bauxite production in 2018 of 50.4 million tonnes was one per cent lower than 2017 and at the upper end of guidance. Fourth quarter production was 14 per cent lower than the corresponding period of 2017, reflecting the planned transition of operations from East Weipa to Amrun in Queensland, and the tie-in works at CBG.
Alumina production in 2018 was two per cent lower than 2017, primarily due to the timing of maintenance shutdowns.

Aluminium production of 3.5 million tonnes was three per cent lower than 2017 and in line with guidance, which was revised during the year due to an ongoing lock-out at the non-managed Becancour smelter, which began on 11 January 2018, and a power interruption at Dunkerque Aluminium in the first quarter.

Excluding these smelters, aluminium production was one per cent higher than 2017, reflecting continued productivity creep.

Rio Tinto's Pilbara shipments in 2019 are expected to be between 338 and 350 million tonnes, (100 per cent basis), subject to weather and market conditions.

Following a plant fire at the port of Cape Lambert A on 10 January 2019, Rio Tinto expects limited disruption to Robe Valley lump and fines shipments, which is reflected in the guidance.

At Argyle, carat production in 2018 was 18 per cent lower than 2017, when production was enhanced by the processing of higher grade alluvial tailings.

At Diavik, carats recovered in 2018 were three per cent lower than 2017 as lower recovered grade were partially offset by higher ore processing.

Rio Tinto's expected share of bauxite production in 2019 is between 56 and 59 million tonnes. Aluminium production guidance is between 3.2 and 3.4 million tonnes and alumina production guidance is 8.1 to 8.4 million tonnes.

Rio Tinto's share of mined copper production for 2019 is expected to be between 550 and 600 thousand tonnes, subject to grade availability. Refined copper production is expected to be between 220 and 250 thousand tonnes. Diamond production guidance for 2019 is between 15 and 17 million carats.

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