Christine Hits Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore Business

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Global mining giant Rio Tinto (LSE:RIO) revealed Tuesday morning its iron ore production fell on account of “seasonal weather patterns” affecting its Australian mines.

In its first quarter report for 2014, the London-listed firm produced 66.4 million tonnes (Mt) of iron ore, six per cent lower than its output in the last quarter of 2013. Production was affected by Category 3 tropical cyclone Christine, which swept Western Australia, resulting in the three-day closure of ports that impacted delivery from Rio Tinto’s Pilbara mines. Shipment was also down eight per cent to 66.7 Mt.

The numbers fell short of market expectation, with bank analyst Paul Young from Deutch Bank, predicting 70.5 Mt, as quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald.

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

With 15 mines serviced by three port facilities, the Pilbara mines produced most of Rio Tinto’s iron ore output at 63.4 Mt. Rio Tinto’s share in the total production is 52.3 Mt.

The global output was, nonetheless, eight percent higher compared to that during the same period last year, while shipment was 16 percent up compared to the first quarter of 2013. Pilbara mines produced 251 Mt of iron ore in 2013, 209 Mt of which pertain to Rio Tinto’s share.

Despite the setback, the FTSE 100 mineral exploration company still expects to hit the target of 295 Mt by the end of the year, following the launching of the latest phase of its Mine of the Future™ technology and innovation programme.

“The full ramp up in the Pilbara to nameplate capacity of 290 Mt/a is expected to be delivered by the end of the first half of 2014,” it said.

In London, Rio Tinto shares shed 61.50 pence, or 1.8% of its closing price on Monday, to 3,346.50 pence a few minutes after the market opened.

Dually listed, Rio Tinto shares marginally ended higher on the Australian Stock Exchange earlier today at Au$ 63.35.

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