Rio lifts FY iron ore production

Mining giant unveils record annual iron ore production, shipments; cut exploration by $1bn in 2013.

Rio Tinto (RIO) has set new records for both iron ore production and shipments in the fourth quarter, as it ramps up its expansion capacity across mines.

In the fourth quarter, Rio Tinto's iron ore output (share of production) was 55.51 million tonnes, a 7% increase on the 51.97 million tonnes in the previous corresponding period.

In the full year, Rio's iron ore output was 208.97 million tonnes, a 5% increase on the 198.87 million tonnes in 2012.

Global iron ore shipments in 2013 were 259 million tonnes, a 5% lift on the previous year, while global iron ore production in the full year was 266 million tonnes, also a 5% increase on the previous year.

In the full year, Rio Tinto's share of production for hard coking coal was 8.21 million tonnes, 2% higher than the previous year, while semi-soft coking coal was 17% stronger at 3.86 million tonnes and thermal coal was 11% higher at 22.98 million tonnes.

"We have set new records for iron ore production and shipments as we ramp up our 290 expansion, as well as achieving an impressive recovery in copper volumes and record annual production for both bauxite and thermal coal," Rio Tinto chief executive officer Sam Walsh said.

The miner also said it has achieved over $2 billion of operating cash cost improvements achieved in 2013 as compared to 2012.

Exploration and evaluation expenditure was also reduced by over $1 billion in 2013 compared with 2012, which exceeded the $750 million target the miner had set for the year.

"We have exceeded our cost cutting targets for the year and announced or completed $3.5 billion of non-core asset sales, Mr Walsh said.

"These actions, together with lower capital expenditure in 2013 and beyond, will ensure that Rio Tinto is well positioned to deliver greater value to shareholders."