Rio Tinto iron ore output up again, but exports fall

Rio Tinto iron ore output up again, but exports fall

Iron ore operations in the Pilbara. (Courtesy of Rio Tinto)

Rio Tinto (LON, ASX:RIO), the world’s second-largest iron ore miner, revealed Tuesday that production of the steel-making material increased 12% in the first quarter from a year earlier, to 74.7 million tonnes, despite the current glut that has sent prices for the commodity plummeting.

The miner, which has been highly criticized for its strategy to continue ramping up iron ore production, surprised analysts with a 12% drop in exports for the commodity, shipping 72.5 million tonnes from its global operations.

The figure is well below the 82.7 million tonnes Deutsche had projected, and also lower than the 82.2 million tonnes Rio exported in the December quarter.

The company blamed the fall in exports on bad weather conditions caused by cyclone Olwyn during the period, and a train derailment that blocked movements of ore into the port.

Chief executive officer Sam Walsh said the company would continue to work to drive efficiency in its business as it competes for market share.

“Our aim is to protect our margins in the face of declining prices and maximize returns for shareholders throughout the cycle,” he noted, adding that the company has not changed its forecast to increase annual shipments to about 350 million tonnes this year.