By Robb M. Stewart
MELBOURNE--Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) said Tuesday it achieved record production of iron ore and coking coal in the first half of the year, but cautioned global economic conditions and sentiment had dropped markedly in the second quarter.
Rio, the world's second-largest iron ore producer after Brazil's Vale SA (VALE), reaffirmed a target of 250 million metric tons of the steelmaking ingredient this year from its mines in Australia and Canada but trimmed its guidance for its share of production of hard coking and thermal coal, as well as for mined copper.
"We are keeping a close eye on the pace of the U.S. recovery, the continuing eurozone crisis and the impact of efforts to stimulate the Chinese economy on the markets that we serve," Chief Executive Tom Albanese said in a statement.
Mr. Albanese said the Anglo-Australian company's investment program remained resilient to the market volatility. "Our tier one projects are robust under any probable macroeconomic scenario," he said.
Rio produced 48.6 million tons of iron ore in the June quarter, excluding output attributable to minority partners, roughly unchanged from a year earlier. Six-month production, however, was up 4% on a year earlier at almost 94.3 million tons.
Production of hard coking coal, which also is used to produce steel, increased 13% on the year to just over 2 million tons for the quarter and was 9% higher for the half-year at 3.7 million tons, the company said. Second-quarter thermal coal output was flat on a year ago at 4.8 million tons but up 2% for the six-month period at 8.9 million tons.
Among other commodities, Rio said it produced 133,500 tons of copper in the second quarter, unchanged on a year ago, while production of aluminum was 12% lower for the quarter at 841,000 tons.
The company expects to produce 8.5 million tons of hard coking coal and 19.5 million tons of thermal coal in 2012, down from an April forecast for 9 million and 20 million tons, respectively. Its share of mined copper is now expected to reach 580,000 tons this year, down from 600,000 forecast previously.
Fellow Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), the world's largest exporter of coking coal by sea and third-biggest producer of iron ore, is due to release its quarterly production figures on Wednesday.
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