By a staff reporter, with AAP
Rio Tinto Ltd has set new records for both iron ore production and shipments in the fourth quarter, as it ramps up its expansion capacity across mines.
Investors responded well to the news. At the 1015 AEDT official market open, shares in Rio Tinto lifted 1.93 per cent to $65.48, against a benchmark index lift of 0.5 per cent.
In the fourth quarter, Rio Tinto's iron ore output (share of production) was 55.51 million tonnes, a seven per cent increase on the 51.97 million tonnes in the previous corresponding period.
In the full year, Rio's iron ore output was 208.97 million tonnes, a five per cent increase on the 198.87 million tonnes in 2012.
Global iron ore shipments in 2013 were 259 million tonnes, a five per cent lift on the previous year, while global iron ore production in the full year was 266 million tonnes, also a five per cent increase on the previous year.
The iron ore market was strong last year, trading between $US130 and $US140 a tonne for much of the second half of calendar 2013 positioning Rio well ahead of reporting its full year financial results next month.
The company says it expects to have completed its ramp up to 290 million tonnes a year by the end of the first half of 2014.
In the full year, Rio Tinto's share of production for hard coking coal was 8.21 million tonnes, two per cent higher than the previous year, while semi-soft coking coal was seventeen per cent stronger at 3.86 million tonnes and thermal coal was 11 per cent higher at 22.98 million tonnes.
In the full year, Rio Tinto's share of production for mined copper was 631,500 tonnes, a 15 per cent lift on the previous year, while refined copper share of production was 300,100 tonnes, a seven per cent increase on the previous year.
"We have set new records for iron ore production and shipments as we ramp up our 290 expansion, as well as achieving an impressive recovery in copper volumes and record annual production for both bauxite and thermal coal," Rio Tinto chief executive officer Sam Walsh said.
The miner also said it has achieved over $2 billion of operating cash cost improvements in 2013 as compared to 2012.
Exploration and evaluation expenditure was also reduced by over $1 billion in 2013 compared with 2012, which exceeded the $750 million target the miner had set for the year.
"We have exceeded our cost cutting targets for the year and announced or completed $3.5 billion of non-core asset sales, Mr Walsh said.
"These actions, together with lower capital expenditure in 2013 and beyond, will ensure that Rio Tinto is well positioned to deliver greater value to shareholders."