Rio Tinto Group

Rio Tinto says iron ore output jumps as prices in China recover

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 October, 2014, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 October, 2014, 1:25pm

The world’s No 2 iron ore miner Rio Tinto said a strong third quarter and productivity gains led to a 12 per cent rise in iron ore production as price volatility persists in the global market.

Rio Tinto, which competes with Vale and BHP Billiton in the seaborne-traded iron ore market, confirmed its target of mining 295 million tonnes of the steelmaking material in 2014, up from 266 million last year.

From Europe to Australia, smaller, less efficient miners are in many cases struggling to survive, while the mega miners take a bigger share of the US$130 billion seaborne iron ore market.

Third-quarter iron ore production totalled 76.8 million tonnes, up from 68.3 million in the same period last year, the company said. It also marked a 5 per cent gain over the second quarter.

“Our strategy of focusing on long-life, low-cost assets means we will continue to generate strong cash flows despite a lower-price environment, resulting in materially increased and consistent cash returns to shareholders,” Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh said in releasing the company’s third-quarter production report.

Recent mine production in China has been relatively stable
Citi commodities analyst Ivan Szpakowski

Iron ore prices dropped to five-year lows this year as seaborne supplies grew amid slowing demand growth from the key Chinese market, though prices have seen a recent rebound.

Chinese iron ore futures rose to their highest in more than three weeks on Tuesday, adding to previous gains after also being hammered for most of this year.

Iron ore traders chalked up the most recent gains to improved economic data out of China.

A senior official at the National Development and Reform Commission said investment growth should pick up in coming months as authorities fast-track infrastructure projects to support growth. That followed data released on Monday showing China’s exports rose more than forecast in September and imports unexpectedly increased, calming fears of a slowdown.

Citi commodities analyst Ivan Szpakowski predicts iron ore prices will see a modest lift in the fourth quarter, driven by a pick-up in machinery and infrastructure activity in China.

Ore prices should also find support from a wave of Chinese domestic iron ore capacity exiting the market in coming months.

Chinese mines had yet to react to recent price drops, such as the 12 per cent fall over September, but were likely to do so at some point, Szpakowski said.

“Recent mine production in China has been relatively stable,” he said.

Rio Tinto produced 216.2 million tonnes in the first nine months, with its equity share of 170.3 million tonnes, and the rest going to joint-venture partners in some of its mines.