Rio Tinto’s record iron ore figures fall short of expectations

Rio Tinto has posted first-quarter iron ore production figures, falling slightly short of expectations but reaching record figures.

Total share of production however was up eight per cent to 52.39 million tonnes, whereas production in the same period for 2013 was 48.5 million tonnes.

However, analysts who were surveyed by Bloomberg made a median forecast of 54.7 million tonnes.

Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh said the company has been driving productivity gains across operations.

“Our Pilbara iron ore business has again set new benchmarks for production, shipments and rail volumes for the first quarter and we are well on track to reach nameplate capacity of 290 million tonnes per year by the end of the first half,” he said.

Globally, Rio Tinto has produced 66.4 million tonnes in the first quarter, with shipments of 66.7 tonnes, setting new first quarter records.

Rio produced 66.5 million tonnes from the Pilbara operations in the December quarter of 2013, however in the first quarter of 2014 that figure dropped to 63.4 million tonnes, which the company blamed on inclement weather from cyclone activity and heavy rainfall over Christmas and the new year.

“Production in the first quarter was below fourth quarter levels due to disruption caused by seasonal weather patterns,” Rio said.

“Severe tropical cyclone Christine closed Rio Tinto’s Pilbara ports and coastal rail operations in late December.

“Heavy rainfall associated with this cyclone and other adverse weather conditions in January and February impacted across mine, rail and port operations.”

Rio Tinto said its full-year production guidance remains unchanged, expecting to produce around 295 million tonnes from its global operations in Australia and Canada.

Iron ore prices have been at $US117 per tonne since Tuesday morning, and Rio shares are currently worth $AUD63.71.

Volatility in the iron ore price over recent months has analysts doubtful about the commodity’s ability to maintain these prices, with predictions of $US80 to $90 per tonne.

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