SYDNEY–Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Tuesday posted record iron ore production in the fourth quarter of 2011, but low grades saw copper output slump 23 percent. In its quarterly update, Rio said iron ore production notched a new record of 65 million tons in the quarter and 245 million tons for the year. However, shipments were below output at 239 million tons due to extreme weather early in the year at its flagship Pilbara region in Western Australia. Production of hard coking coal dropped 2 percent year-on-year while thermal coal was down 3 percent on 2010, due to flooding on the east coast. Copper production also suffered, with lower grades at the company’s Escondida and Kennecot Utah mines driving production down year-on-year, in line with guidance. However, bauxite production was up 7 percent and aluminum was 1 percent higher. “This was another record-breaking year in the Pilbara with both quarterly and full-year iron ore production and shipments beating previous achievements as our expansion program continues apace,” said chief executive Tom Albanese.
“Across the group, production has bounced back from the severe weather conditions experienced in the first half which had the biggest impact on Australian iron ore, coal and uranium.”