Despite weak demand, No. 2 miner Rio Tinto announced strong 2014 production including 295.4 million tons of iron ore, an 11% increase over 2013. Copper production was 4% higher year-on-year, officials added, partly driven by a ramp-up at the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project.
The massive Mongolian asset, added officials, enjoyed higher ore grades alongside their equally huge Kennecott operation in Utah; production from both sites culminated in a 69% year-on-year gold production hike.
A “challenging market” aside, eight aluminum smelters, representing 54% of 2014 production, further achieved records as “output targets all major products,” said CEO Sam Walsh. “Rio remains focused on our low-cost position;” bauxite fell 3% last year, added Rio Tinto, amid transitions and a Q2 2014 refinery curtailment.
Last year’s aluminum production remained equal with 2013, despite Rio Tinto’s Q4 closure of its Shawinigan plant in Quebec, according to company representatives. A partial shutdown at their Kitimat project in British Columbia, meanwhile, is pending full commissioning of a smelter modernization by Q3 2015, reported officials.
Productivity gains spanned Rio Tinto’s Australian coal business, the company added, delivering annual records at Hail Creek in Queensland, and at Hunter Valley and Bengalla in New South Wales. Barring output at Clermont in Queensland following 2014 divestment, noted officials, thermal coal production jumped 15% to 2.5 million tons over 2013.