Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques commented on the results:
Despite challenging weather conditions at our West Australian and Queensland operations, we delivered solid production in the first quarter of 2017. Our strategy is unchanged. Our number one priority is safety. We maintain our disciplined approach to capital management and maximising cash flow, with a focus on managing costs and enhancing productivity across the business. These actions support the delivery of strong cash returns to shareholders in the short, medium and long term.
- Pilbara iron ore shipments were 76.7 million tonnes in the first quarter (100 per cent basis). Ship loading was impacted by cyclone activity during the period, and sections of the rail network were affected by significant rainfall. Despite these disruptions, shipments were in line with the first quarter of 2016 and guidance for 2017 remains at 330 to 340 million tonnes.
- First quarter bauxite production of 11.3 million tonnes and aluminium production of 889 thousand tonnes were both two per cent higher than the corresponding quarter of 2016.
- Mined copper production was 37 per cent lower than the first quarter of 2016 due to a 43 day labour strike at Escondida. This strike, combined with the curtailment of production at Grasberg, has led to revised 2017 mined copper guidance of 500 to 550 thousand tonnes.
- Titanium dioxide slag production increased by 35 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2016, reflecting higher market demand. 2017 production guidance has slightly increased to between 1.2 and 1.3 million tonnes.
- On 24 January 2017, Rio Tinto announced that it had reached a binding agreement for the sale of Coal & Allied to Yancoal Australia for up to $2.45 billion. The sale is subject to certain conditions being satisfied, and is expected to complete in the second half of 2017. Yancoal announced receipt of Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval on 13 April 2017.