Rio Tinto ramp up sets new iron ore production record

Rio Tinto produced 11 per cent more iron ore in 2014 as the company drives the expansion of its Pilbara operations.

Rio set a new annual record in 2014, producing 295.4 million tonnes of iron ore.

The company shipped 302.6 million tonnes of ore, a 17 per cent increase on sales from the previous year.

Rio said that production in 2014 set a new annual production record due to the early completion of the 290 million tonne expansion project at its Pilbara operations.

Meanwhile infrastructure for the 360 million tonne expansion is around 80 per cent complete, with all major rail, marine and wharf works in place. This project is expected to be completed in the first half of 2015.

Rio’s CEO Sam Walsh said he is pleased with the company’s results.

“We have had a successful year of production, capped off with a robust fourth quarter,” Walsh said.

“Output is in line with our targets across all of our major products. In a challenging market Rio Tinto remains focused on operating and commercial excellence to leverage our low-cost position and maximise value for shareholders.”

It is expected the higher volume of iron ore sales will help to boost Rio’s revenue, with shareholder returns to be announced in February when Rio reports on its full-year financial results.

In other production results, Rio said productivity gains meant thermal coal production increased by 15 per cent, or 2.5 million tonnes in 2014 compared to 2013. The company produced a total of 19.1 million tonnes of thermal coal.

However, full year coking coal production was eight per cent lower than 2013 due to Hail Creek prioritising the production of thermal coal from a processing plant by-product stream. Rio produced 7 million tonnes of coking coal in 2014.

At Argyle diamond mine, carats recovered during the year were 19 per cent lower than in 2013, reflecting the move from open pit to underground mining and the processing of lower grades as underground production ramped up.

Rio spent $765 million on exploration and evaluation in 2014, $183 million less than in 2013.

33 per cent of this expenditure was spent by the Copper group, five per cent by iron ore, 18 per cent in energy, 15 per cent by diamonds and minerals and one per cent by aluminium.

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