The world’s third largest miner Rio Tinto Wednesday said iron ore sales were at a record level in the first quarter despite lower production from Western Australia.
The miner also said aluminium output had reached an all-time high in the three months to March 2008, reflecting the first full quarter contribution from Canada’s Alcan Inc which Rio acquired last year.
Rio did not provide figures on iron ore sales, but said output for the quarter rose to 37.4 million tonnes from 32.2 million tonnes a year earlier following expansion at the group’s Western Australian operations.
The March quarter production was slightly lower than the fourth quarter figure of 38.9 million tonnes, after Western Australia operations were affected by cyclonic activity and power outages, it said.
“These are a great set of first quarter production figures, which I believe clearly show our determination to deliver faster, better and smarter than our competitors,” chief executive Tom Albanese said.
“Our value as an independent business is far in-excess of what BHP has proposed and we’re superbly placed for the future,” he told reporters during a conference call.
The strong results come as Rio Tinto fends off a hostile 3.4-for-1 scrip offer from the world’s biggest diversified resources group, BHP Billiton.
Rio Tinto said aluminium output jumped 386 percent from the previous year to 1.0 million tonnes while alumina output surged 236 percent to 2.2 million tonnes.
“The integration of the Alcan acquisition is going well, and our investment assumptions for this business are already being exceeded,” Albanese said.
“This year we expect to invest at record levels across the group in bringing new production on stream, so we can continue to benefit from economies undergoing rapid, metals-intensive phases of development.”
The quarterly figures were released as price negotiations with north Asian clients for the supply of iron ore under contract for the year starting April 1 are yet to be finalised.
Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are expected to gain increases of at least 65 to 71 percent — the level that Brazil’s Cia Vale do Rio Doce settled won last month.