MELBOURNE, Australia--Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) scaled back its forecast for mined copper this year after delays in the planned ramp-up of production at the part-owned Escondida operation in Chile's Atacama Desert.
The revision comes after a drop in the Anglo-Australian miner's copper output in the third quarter, and after a rebound the quarter before following a lengthy strike at the Escondida mine managed by BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP.AU).
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Rio Tinto on Tuesday said it now expected mined copper output of between 460,000 and 480,000 metric tons this year, against an earlier forecast of 500,000-550,000 tons. The pared forecast also reflects changes to be made at the Kennecott mine outside Salt Lake City, Utah.
The company said it continues to expect production of refined copper for the year to be between 185,000 and 225,000 tons, although that was subject to the outcome of an investigation into a fatal accident at Kennecott in early May.
Rio Tinto's production of mined copper in the third quarter fell by 3% year-over-year to 120,600 tons, while output of most other commodities was higher.
Production of iron ore from Rio Tinto's mines in Australia's western Pilbara region was up 2% on year at 85 million tons, and 6% higher than in the previous quarter, while shipments of the steelmaking ingredient climbed 6% on-year and 11% quarter-over-quarter to 85.8 million tons as rail capacity in the region improved.
In July, the miner scaled back guidance for iron ore and after the Pilbara operations were hit by rough weather early in the year and it prepared for continued rail maintenance.
Production of steelmaking coking coal rose to 2.24 million tons in the quarter, up 3% on-year and 44% higher than in the previous quarter when wet weather disrupted operations on Australia's eastern coast.
Bauxite production was up 4% on-year, but flat on the prior quarter, at 12.9 million tons and Rio Tinto said it now expected output for the year of between 50 million and 51 million tons from a previous target of 48 million-50 million.
Rio Tinto has stepped up returns to shareholders this year as earnings have rebounded with a recovery in commodities prices and after cutting back on spending in recent years to cut debt. Last month, it said it would used the proceeds from the sale of its Coal & Allied unit in Australia to fund a further repurchase of US$2.5 billion in its Australia- and U.K.-listed shares, bringing the total it aims to buy back to US$4 billion.
In the first half of the year, Rio Tinto's net profit almost doubled to US$3.31 billion and revenue increased 25% to US$19.32 billion.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 16, 2017 18:13 ET (22:13 GMT)