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Fri, Jan 15, 2010 - Page 10 News List

Record quarter boosts Rio output


Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto beat annual forecasts yesterday with a record-breaking fourth-quarter of iron ore production, boosted by strong Chinese demand.

Rio said global iron ore production was up 49 percent year on year at 47.2 million tonnes, bringing the total for last year to 217 million tonnes.

The figure is an increase of 13 percent on the previous year and ahead of guidance, given in October, of between 210 million tonnes and 215 million tonnes.

Global iron ore sales set a new quarterly record of 61 million tonnes, with a full-year sales record also set by Rio’s Pilbara operations in Western Australia.

“This was another very strong quarter for iron ore, driven by continuing high demand from China,” Rio chief Tom Albanese said in a statement to the market.

Relations with the Asian giant were strained last year following the arrest of Australian Rio executive Stern Hu (胡士泰) and three of his Chinese colleagues on allegations of spying amid fraught iron ore negotiations.

Beijing on Tuesday confirmed the investigation was complete and Hu’s case had been handed over to prosecutors in Shanghai, with foreign ministry officials saying they were confident of a “lawful and just outcome.”

Albanese said the impact of the global financial crisis on commodity prices was beginning to ease, but Rio remained wary.

“We are seeing recovery across most of our key commodities, although we continue to be cautious about the state of the global economy going into 2010 as stimulus packages start to wind down,” he said.

Full-year mined copper production rose 15 percent to 804,700 tonnes, ahead of guidance, while refined copper was up 15 percent at 412,400 tonnes, just shy of forecasts.

“There was some speculation the fourth quarter would be weaker than the third given seasonal weather issues but the number surprised on the upside,” said IG Markets analyst Chris Weston, adding that it was a “solid” result.

Rio’s shares rallied on the news, closing 2.6 percent higher at US$79.15.

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