Rio Tinto has released its third quarter production results which revealed a number of productivity improvements across the company’s operations.
Rio Tinto’s world-class Pilbara iron ore business shipped 85.8 million tonnes of iron ore in the third quarter, up 6% over the same period last year when shipping was affected by shiploader maintenance.
The company’s quarterly bauxite production was 12.9 million tonnes for a second consecutive quarter, 4% higher than the third quarter of 2016, driven by strong performances at Gove and Weipa. Third party shipments for the third quarter were 8.2 million tonnes.
Rio Tinto said the improved production results prompted the company to revise bauxite production guidance to between 50 and 51 million tonnes (previously 48 to 50 million tonnes).
Mined copper production dropped 3% compared to the corresponding quarter of 2016, with Rio Tinto citing lower copper head grades at its Kennecott and Oyu Tolgoi mines.
“Mined copper guidance is revised to between 460 and 480 thousand tonnes (previously 500 to 550 thousand tonnes) following the third quarter impact of the delayed ramp-up of the Escondida expansion, and fourth quarter mine sequencing changes at Rio Tinto Kennecott,” the company said in a statement.
Numbers also revealed that titanium dioxide slag production increased by 23% compared to the third quarter of 2016, reflecting higher market demand.
Commenting on these results, Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques said:
“The business performed very well in the September quarter, with a strong quarterly production performance and a wave of productivity improvements embedded through our operations,” Mr Jacques noted.
The company, which completed the sale of Coal & Allied to Yancoal Australia for total consideration of $2.69 billion, also announced a new $2.5 billion share buy-back in the third quarter, comprised of a A$700 million off-market buy-back tender in Rio Tinto Limited shares, and an additional $1.9 billion of on-market purchases of Rio Tinto plc shares.
“We continue to shape our asset portfolio and announced $2.5 billion of additional returns to shareholders from the proceeds of the Coal & Allied sale, demonstrating the robustness of our strategy and ability to invest in high-value growth whilst returning excess cash to shareholders,” Mr Jacques continued.
“We have announced over $8 billion of cash returns in 2017. Our relentless focus on cash generation and disciplined capital allocation will continue to deliver superior returns for our shareholders.”