Rio Tinto plc (LON:RIO) has claimed “good momentum” into the close of 2019, whilst confirming a 3% dip in Australian iron ore production and shipments for 2019, and, at the same time, said it is increasing investments in new projects and exploration.
In Friday’s early deals, Rio shares rose by 74p or 1.63% to change hands at 4,601p.
The miner, in a statement, revealed that it produced 83.6mln tonnes of iron ore at its operations in Australia’s Pilbara region during the fourth quarter, and, it shipped a total of 86.8mln tonnes.
For the whole of 2019, some 326.7mln tonnes of ore were produced and 327.4mln tonnes were shipped, marking a 3% decline for both metrics against numbers for 2018.
Rio said it produced 55mln tonnes of bauxite in the year, up 9%, driven by the ramp-up of the Amrun mine in Queensland, Australia.
Aluminium production reduced by 2% compared the preceding year, totalling 3.2mln tonnes in 2019.
It mined 577 thousand tonnes of copper, down 5%, due to lower production grade.
Titanium dioxide slag production increased by 8% to 1.2mln tonnes for the year.
Some 18% more pellets and concentrate were produced at the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) operation, though Rio noted that the 2018 comparative was impacted by strike action and that 2019 Q4 volumes were dented by unplanned equipment-related downtime.
"We finished the year with good momentum, particularly in our Pilbara iron ore operations and in bauxite, despite having experienced some operational challenges in 2019,” said Jean-Sébastien Jacques, Rio Tinto chief executive.
He added: "We are increasing our investment, with $2.25 billion of high-return projects in iron ore and copper approved in the fourth quarter. We also boosted our exploration and evaluation expenditure to $624 million in 2019, further strengthening our pipeline of opportunities.
"We have the platform and performance to maintain our delivery of superior returns to shareholders over the short, medium and long-term, driven by our strong value over volume approach and ongoing disciplined allocation of capital."