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Rio Tinto Q1 Iron Ore Shipments Down 14%; Cuts 2019 Iron Ore Shipments Outlook

Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Plc (RTNTF,RIO,RIO.L, RTPPF) reported that Pilbara iron ore shipments in the first quarter were 14 per cent lower than last year, reflecting the weather disruptions in March and a fire at Cape Lambert A in January. The company cut its 2019 Pilbara iron ore shipments guidance, due to slower ramp up and ongoing disruption to shipments caused by weather and other disruptions.

Pilbara operations produced 76.0 million tonnes of iron ore--Rio Tinto share 64.1 million tonnes-- in the first quarter, nine per cent lower than the same period in 2018.

Pilbara iron ore shipments of 69.1 million tonnes--100 per cent basis-- in the first quarter were 14 per cent lower than the first quarter of 2018. Production was significantly impacted by the weather disruptions in March and a fire at Cape Lambert A in January. The events will have an impact on second quarter performance, the company said.

The company cut Pilbara iron ore shipments guidance for fiscal year 2019 to a range of 333 million tonnes - 343 million tonnes from the prior estimation of 338 million tonnes - 350 million tonnes.

First quarter bauxite production of 12.8 million tonnes was one per cent higher than the same period of 2018. Increased production capacity following the expansion of Amrun in Queensland was partly offset by weather events throughout the quarter at Weipa, Amrun and Gove, which significantly impacted production.

Alumina production in the first quarter of 2019 was one per cent higher than the same period in 2018.

Aluminium production of 0.8 million tonnes in the first quarter was in line with the corresponding period of 2018. Excluding production from the non-managed Becancour smelter, which continues to be impacted by a lock-out, production was one per cent higher, reflecting continued productivity creep.

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. 2019 guidance is unchanged.

First quarter mined copper production was 48 per cent higher than the same period of 2018 as mining activity continued in a higher grade area of the pit, coupled with productivity improvements and increased plant throughput.

At Argyle, carat production in the first quarter of 2019 was 22 per cent lower than the same period in 2018 due to lower recovered grade.

At Diavik, carats recovered in the first quarter were five per cent lower than the first quarter of 2018, as lower recovered grades were partially offset by higher ore processing.

2019 guidance is unchanged. 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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