Sam Walsh

Rio Tinto has reported a 6% decline in global iron ore production for the first quarter of this year compared with the previous quarter, due to bad weather conditions.

The company’s total global iron ore production was 66.4 million tonnes (Mt) for Q1.

However, the global iron ore production increased by 8% in Q1 2014, compared with the same period in 2013.

Rio Tinto’s Pilbara operations production increased by 10% to 63.4Mt in Q1, compared to the same period in 2013.

The company said that tropical cyclone Christine caused the closure of its Pilbara ports and coastal rail operations in late December 2013, and heavy rainfall associated with the cyclone and other adverse weather conditions in January and February 2014 impacted mine, rail and port operations.

Mined copper has increased by 17% to 156,500t, with the Kennecott Utah operation in the US, delivering a 44% increase in production on the back of higher grades at the mine and improved recoveries at the concentrator, due to the flotation expansion completed in Q3 of 2013.

The company’s hard coking coal production increased by 14% to 1.9Mt in Q1, and semi-soft and thermal coal production grew 12% to 6.8Mt.

Rio Tinto chief executive officer Sam Walsh said the company has started the year with a series of performance records as it continues to drive productivity gains across its operations.

"Our Pilbara iron ore business has again set new benchmarks for production, shipments and rail volumes for the first quarter and we are well on track to reach nameplate capacity of 290Mt per annum by the end of the first half of 2014," Walsh said.

"Our mined copper production benefited from higher ore grades at Kennecott Utah Copper and production ramp-up at Oyu Tolgoi, and we also had a record first quarter for bauxite, primarily driven by higher production at Weipa."

Image: Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh. Photo: courtesy of Rio Tinto.