By Rhiannon Hoyle


Rio Tinto on Tuesday said it produced more iron ore, aluminum and copper last year than the year before, reaching annual targets as it ramped up new mining operations in Australia and Mongolia.

The world's second-biggest miner by market value said it produced 331.5 million metric tons of iron ore at its network of mines in Australia in 2023, up 2% versus 2022, and shipped 331.8 million tons, up 3%. Rio Tinto, a top exporter of the steel ingredient, previously told investors it expected shipments in the upper half of a 320-million to 335-million ton range.

The miner, a large supplier of industrial commodities aluminum and copper, said it produced more of those metals, too.

Rio Tinto reported annual aluminum production of roughly 3.3 million tons, up 9% year-on-year and at the top end of its own forecast of 3.1 million to 3.3 million tons. The result was bolstered by the return to full production at its Kitimat smelter in Canada.

The company's output of mined copper totaled 620,000 tons. That was 2% higher than in 2022, before the miner bought out minority shareholders in the company that controlled the big Oyu Tolgoi copper-and-gold mine in Mongolia. It had told investors to expect production between 590,000 and 640,000 tons.

Overall, Rio Tinto said 2023 group output was just over 3% higher than the year earlier, on a copper-equivalent basis. The company produces other commodities including diamonds and titanium dioxide, a white pigment used in paints, plastics and paper. Its majority owned Dampier Salt joint venture recently penned a $251 million deal to sell the Lake MacLeod salt and gypsum operation in Western Australia to closely held Leichhardt Industrials Group, Rio Tinto said.

The Anglo-Australian miner is seeking to fortify its lucrative iron-ore business by adding operations in Australia's Pilbara, the world's largest iron-ore producing region, and investing in a giant mining project in Guinea's Simandou mountains, where the world's largest known high-grade iron-ore deposit is buried.

Last year, Rio Tinto ramped up production from the high-tech Gudai-Darri mine, its first brand-new mine in the Pilbara in more than a decade. In December, it approved a new study for the Rhodes Ridge project, which it says is the best undeveloped project in the Pilbara.

The miner is aiming for a medium-term annual capacity of between 345 million and 360 million tons in its iron-ore business in Australia, a country that accounts for almost three in every five tons of exports globally.

The miner is also seeking to expand its copper business, reflected in the takeover of Oyu Tolgoi majority owner Turquoise Hill Resources that occurred in December 2022. Rio Tinto expects the Oyu Tolgoi operation in Mongolia's Gobi desert, where it is ramping up a new underground project, will be the fourth-largest copper mine in the world by 2030.

Like many of its peers, Rio Tinto is betting that copper will be in high demand for use in electric vehicles and renewable energy as the energy transition accelerates.

Rio Tinto said its output of refined copper was lower last year than the year before, as it completed a $300-million rebuild of the Kennecott smelter near Salt Lake City, Utah, aimed at strengthening the company's supply of copper in the U.S. Full-year refined copper production fell by 16% to 175,000 tons, in line with a company projection of 160,000 to 190,000 tons. Rio Tinto said it expects a return to stable production at the site in the first quarter of 2024.


Write to Rhiannon Hoyle at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 15, 2024 17:20 ET (22:20 GMT)

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