Rio Tinto Records Record Quarterly Iron-Ore Shipments

MELBOURNE, Australia--Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) continues to expect shipments of iron ore from its Western Australia mines will likely rise this year, after record exports in the last quarter allowed it to hit a target for 2017.

Shipments of the steel-making commodity from Australia's western Pilbara region are still expected to reach between 330 million and 340 million metric tons over 2018, the Anglo-Australian miner said Tuesday. That after shipments from the mines of 90 million tons in the fourth quarter of 2017 lifted output for the year by 1% to 330.1 million.

Rio Tinto finished the year with output in line with its own guidance across all its major products.

Production of iron ore in the fourth quarter of last year was up 3% year-over-year at 87.9 million tons, though was steady for 2017 at 329.8 million tons.

The miner, one of the world's biggest producers of iron ore, has said it will spend about US$1 billion annually over the next three years on sustaining output in Australia's remote Pilbara region. It's also studying a possible new US$2.2 billion mine that could begin producing from 2021.

Rio Tinto said it expected its share of mined copper to rebound to between 510,000 and 610,000 tons this year, while refined copper output is forecast to be between 225,000 and 265,000 tons.

Mined copper volumes climbed 11% on-year in the final quarter of 2017 but were 9% lower for the year at 478,100 tons. Still the annual figure was toward the upper end of guidance that was cut by the company in mid-October to reflect a delayed expansion ramp-up at the part-owned Escondida mine in Chile and changes at the Kennecott mine outside Salt Lake City, Utah.

Among other commodities produced by Rio Tinto, the company said output of hard coking coal was 5% lower at 7.7 million tons over 2017, despite a 6% rise on-year in the final quarter. Annual bauxite production was 6% higher for the year at 50.8 million tons, but aluminum production was 1% down at 3.6 million tons.

Rio Tinto said it expected coking coal output of between 7.5 million and 8.5 million tons this year, bauxite output between 49 million and 51 million tons, and aluminum volumes of 3.5 million-3.7 million tons..

Write to Robb M. Stewart at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 15, 2018 17:09 ET (22:09 GMT)