Chief executive Tom Albanese said "We had a solid first quarter with increased production of iron ore, coal, bauxite, alumina and titanium dioxide compared with the first quarter of 2011. This was driven by a combination of our consistently high operating performance and reduced impact from severe weather than in 2011. We were therefore well positioned for the relatively strong markets in the first quarter, albeit with continued volatility as we anticipated."
First quarter global iron ore shipments of 54 million t were two per cent higher than the first quarter of 2011.
First quarter global iron ore production of 59 million t (46 million t attributable) was 10 per cent higher than the first quarter of 2011. Production was five million t above shipments as ports in Western Australia were closed during cyclonic activity.
During the quarter, iron ore production and shipping capacity in the Pilbara increased by a further five million t to 230 million t per annum (Mt/a), following the completion of the second debottlenecking project at the Dampier port on time and on budget.
Mined copper production was 18 per cent lower than the first quarter of 2011 due to anticipated lower grades at Kennecott Utah Copper.
Bauxite and alumina production were 10 per cent and 13 per cent higher than the first quarter of 2011. Aluminium was nine per cent lower primarily reflecting the orderly shutdown of two thirds of capacity at Alma, due to labour disruption, and the closure of Lynemouth.
Hard coking coal production was five per cent higher than the first quarter of 2011. Rio Tinto's share of thermal coal production was three per cent higher following the increase in ownership in the former Coal & Allied operations.
Titanium dioxide feedstocks production was 14 per cent higher than the first quarter of 2011.
On 1 February 2012, Rio Tinto announced that it will increase its stake in Richards Bay Minerals to 74 per cent through the acquisition of BHP Billiton's 37 per cent interest.
On 27 March 2012, Rio Tinto announced that it has begun a strategic review of its diamond business that will include exploring a range of options for potential divestment.
Rio Tinto completed its share buy-back programme on 26 March 2012. Since February 2011, 116.9 million Rio Tinto plc shares have been purchased at an average price of £37.47, for a total consideration of $7.0 billion.
Rio Tinto, London