Rio Tinto Q3 Iron Ore Shipments Up 6%

Production of iron ore from Rio Tinto's mines in Australia's western Pilbara region was up 2% on year at 85 million tons, and 6% higher than in the previous quarter, while shipments of the steelmaking ingredient climbed 6% on-year and 11% quarter-over-quarter to 85.8 million tons as rail capacity in the region improved.

Quarterly bauxite production was 12.9 million tonnes for a second consecutive quarter, four per cent higher than the third quarter of 2016, driven by strong performances at Gove and Weipa.

That was also more than the 84.6 million tonnes that UBS had forecast.

On 21 September 2017, Rio Tinto announced a new $2.5 billion share buy-back, comprised of a A$700 million (approximately $560 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.

But rail disruption and bad weather ensure the miner had a weak start to the year, and Rio was forced to downgrade that guidance to "around 330 million tonnes".

The Anglo-Australian giant blamed lower copper head grades at the Rio Tinto Kennecott mine in the United States and its Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold operation in Mongolia for the miss.

The mining giant exported more iron ore than expected during the September quarter, but had to downgrade its copper guidance for the second time this year.

Those forecasts were made before a seven week strike at the Escondida copper mine in Chile.

Rio produced 120,600 tonnes of copper in the September quarter and now expects to produce between 460,000 and 480,000 tonnes of copper for the full year, down from its previous estimate of 500,000 and 550,000 tonnes.

Meantime, its bauxite production guidance was revised higher to 50 to 51 million tonnes (previously 48 to 50 million tonnes).

The company said diamond production would be toward the bottom end of guidance, while guidance was retained in all other commodities, apart from coal where Rio's Hunter Valley assets have been sold to Yancoal.

Rio Tinto has stepped up returns to shareholders this year as earnings have rebounded with a recovery in commodities prices and after cutting back on spending in recent years to cut debt.

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