Wed, Oct 17, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Rio Tinto going strong despite shaky markets

GOLD DIGGERS:The mining firm reported a 22 percent fall in profits for the first six months, but was optimistic due to an expansion project that will boost production

AFP and Bloomberg, SYDNEY, Australia

Global mining giant Rio Tinto yesterday said its business was performing strongly despite global economic volatility, affirming annual targets and reporting a quarterly record in Australian iron ore output.

Rio said it had achieved a “strong set of results in the third quarter” to the end of last month despite falling commodity prices due to slowing in its crucial China market.

“Markets remain volatile, but our business is resilient and our operations are performing strongly,” Rio Tinto chief Tom Albanese said. “We have delivered another strong set of production results in the third quarter.”

Rio kept its previous full-year guidance of 250 million tonnes for iron ore, 8.5 million tonnes for steelmaking coal and 19.5 million tonnes for thermal coal, which is burned to produce electricity.

The firm reported global iron ore production of 67 million tonnes in the three months to last month, up 5 percent compared with the same period last year, including a record 63 million tonnes at its flagship Australian operations.

The company is preparing a major expansion of its Western Australian Pilbara project that will ramp up production from 230 million tonnes a year to 283 million tonnes by the end of next year. Rio also said it had produced more iron ore than it sold, to build up a backlog that will see it through the extension works.

In August, the mining giant reported a 22 percent slump in first-half profit to US$5.9 billion due to commodity price falls, but was upbeat about longer-term demand prospects.

China’s slowdown has seen a number of mining companies shelve or delay projects in minerals-rich Australia, where a bullish exchange rate is also squeezing company margins.

Meanwhile, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, Australia’s third-biggest iron ore producer, may resume developing its Kings deposit by the end of December as commodity prices recover.

Fortescue will be able to restart the project, which was deferred last month, as it expects iron ore prices to stabilize at about US$120 a tonne, chief executive officer Neville Power said yesterday in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

The company may restart it in stages depending on available funds, he said separately on a media call after reporting better-than-expected gains in quarterly shipments.

The company maintained its full-year production target of 82 million tonnes to 84 million tonnes after reporting first-quarter shipments rose 26 percent, beating analysts’ expectations.

Shipments were 15.4 million metric tonnes in the three months ended on Sept. 30, from 12.2 million tonnes a year ago, the company said in a statement.

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