Rio Tinto has reported record first quarter iron ore production, driven by an improvement in capacity of the Pilbara mine in Western Australia.
The mining giant achieved 61.2m tonnes (mt) of iron ore output and shipped 57.3 (mt), up 4.0% and 7.0% year-on-year respectively.
However, production was down on the previous quarter by 8.0% and shipments fell 14% following three tropical cyclones at the Pilbara mine. The weather disruption forced shiploading to be suspended or slowed.
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A re-rating of Pilbara capacity through debottlenecking, helped offset the affects of the natural disaster.
The iron ore mine is now running at full capacity of 237m tonnes per year.
Expansion of the mine's capacity to 290m tonnes per year remains on budget and on time for completion in the third quarter of this year.
Copper production during the period rose 26% year-on-year, reflecting higher grades at the Escondida and Kennecott copper mines. An 8.0% decline on the prior quarter was grade-related and partly offset by higher throughput.
A wall slide at the Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine is expected to reduce production by 100,000 tonnes in 2013. Operations were halted after the mine experienced a slide along a geotechnical fault line of its north eastern wall on April 10th.
Chief Executive Sam Walsh said while the wall slide at Bingham will have a significant impact on copper production this year, a recovery plan was being implemented to minimise the economic repercussions.
Production of hard coking coal was off 3.0% compared with a year ago, but production of thermal coal is up 28%.
"Our operations achieved a solid performance in the first quarter, recovering rapidly from the seasonal weather disruptions," Walsh said.
"My streamlined executive committee structure is now in place and demanding targets for 2013, including for cash cost savings, are locked into our performance measures.
"We are making good progress in achieving our cost reduction targets and other priorities for 2013, and are determined in our pursuit of greater value for shareholders."
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