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Rio Tinto copper output below target

Keywords: Tags  Rio Tinto, Oyu Tolgoi, copper output, refined copper, mined copper, Shivani Singh

SINGAPORE — Rio Tinto Plc’s mined and refined copper output fell short of expectations in 2012, the company said Jan. 15.

Mined copper production totaled 548,800 tonnes last year, up 6 percent year on year but below the London-based company’s previous forecast of 560,000 tonnes. Meanwhile, refined copper output fell 16 percent year on year to 279,300 tonnes, falling short of the prior estimate of 290,000 tonnes, Rio Tinto said.

Production of copper contained in concentrate increased through the second half of 2012 due to a recovery in ore grades at Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Utah Copper project, the company said.

Refined copper output also rose at Kennecott Utah Copper due to improved mine production and inventory processing after a successful maintenance shutdown of the smelter during the second quarter, Rio Tinto added.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, mined copper output reached 163,900 tonnes, up 20 percent from the year-earlier quarter and 24 percent higher than the preceding three months. Refined copper production reached 86,200 tonnes during the same period, a 7-percent increase from year on year and 24 percent higher than the third quarter of 2012.

Mined gold production also fell more than 50 percent year on year to 73,000 ounces during the quarter. However, that constituted a 6-percent increase from the previous quarter. Refined gold output reached 78,000 ounces in the fourth quarter, down 10 percent from some 87,000 ounces in the year-ago period but up nearly 70 percent from 46,000 ounces in the third quarter.

Rio Tinto also expects commercial production at the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in the South Gobi region of Mongolia to start by June 2013, it said. Construction of the project is now 99-percent complete.

"Commissioning of the ore processing equipment began in mid-November, and first ore was processed through the concentrator on Jan. 2, 2013," the company said, adding that first concentrate production will follow within one month.

"Oyu Tolgoi has entered into sales contracts for 75 percent of concentrate production from the project on international terms," Rio Tinto said. "In addition to the signed contracts, Oyu Tolgoi has committed in principle to sell up to 25 percent of concentrate production on international terms to smelters in Inner Mongolia for the first 10 years, subject to the conclusion of detailed sales contracts."

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