Rio Tinto shipped 72 million metric tons (mt) of iron ore during the first quarter, which was 9% more than the first quarter of 2014. Iron ore production for the quarter increased 12% year-on-year to 74.7 million mt.

“We continue to drive efficiency in all aspects of our business, which is reflected in our solid production performance during the first quarter,” said Sam Walsh, chief executive. “By making best use of our high-quality assets, low cost base and operating and commercial capability, our aim is to protect our margins in the face of declining prices and maximise returns for shareholders throughout the cycle.”

Mined copper production was 12% higher than the fourth quarter of 2014, driven by higher throughput at Kennecott and Escondida. Lower grades at Kennecott were the primary driver of a 9% decline compared with the first quarter of 2014. During the quarter, the government of Mongolia and Rio Tinto formally celebrated the major milestone at Oyu Tolgoi, shipping 1 million mt of concentrate.

Coking and steam coal production increased 10% and 4%, respectively, over the first quarter of 2014. Coal production was primarily driven by improved production rates at Kestrel South following the longwall ramp-up, increased semi-soft production at Mount Thorley and Warkworth and higher thermal production at Hail Creek.