Aluminium, iron ore output slump

Rio Tinto reveals first quarter production details.

Rio Tinto’s iron ore production for the first quarter was down 15% and its aluminium output fell a steeper-than-expected 6%, the company said in its first 2009 operations review.

The company said its iron ore output had been adversely affected by severe weather conditions in the Pilbara, but iron ore guidance for the year was still about 200 million tonnes.

Other minerals to fall in production when compared to the same time last year were bauxite, which fell 19%, and alumina, down 2%.

According to Rio chief executive Tom Albanese, the reduced output levels were to be expected given current markets and weather conditions.

“First quarter production was in line with reduced market demand and iron ore was further affected by heavy rains,” he said.

Rio hopes that an expected Chinese recovery will increase steel demand in the second half of 2009, increasing iron ore output, the company said in the statement.

The first quarter saw a 33% increase in refined copper production as well as a 32% increase in hard coking coal production.

Rio has moved to successfully raise capital in an unstable market, with the miner selling assets totalling $2.5 billion in the first quarter, Albanese said.

“We have acted swiftly where necessary to reduce costs and conserve cash,” he said.

“We remain committed to delivering the Chinalco transaction and our focus is on successfully navigating the regulatory processes before putting it to a shareholder vote.”

The company said its financial position is consistent, with no debt movement over the first quarter.

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