Rio Tinto blow as copper and iron production disappoints

City A.M. Reporter
RIO Tinto yesterday reported worse-than-expected falls in iron ore, copper and coal production in the first quarter after it was hit by bad weather.

The world’s second biggest producer of iron ore said output dropped 11 per cent in the March quarter from the previous three months, with cyclones hampering production and shipments in the southern hemisphere summer.

The miner’s outlook for copper production for the full year also came in weaker than expected.

“We were expecting it to be weak, but suffice to say in summary, it’s come through weaker than we would have thought,” said UBS analyst Glyn Lawcock.

Rival BHP Billiton is also expected to report weather-related disruptions to its Australian iron ore operations.

Rio Tinto gave no detailed commentary on demand, but there have been market concerns that commodity imports by China will drop off this year in step with slowing industrial growth.

Global stock markets fell last month when BHP said it was seeing signs of flattening Chinese demand for iron ore.

China is the single-largest buyer of Australian iron ore, and Rio Tinto remains committed to a massive expansion of its iron ore operations in the Pilbara in Western Australia, where it expects to be producing at 283m tonnes a year in the second half of 2013. The company said its coal mines were in new South Wales had been hit by rain.