Tom Albanese,
Chief Executive,
Rio Tinto
 
Sydney, Australia — MININGREVIEW.COM — 16 April 2009 – Rio Tinto – one of the world’s leading mining and exploration companies – says its first-quarter aluminium output fell 6%, mostly due to curtailments in Europe, as it attempted to better balance supply with sinking global industrial demand.

Releasing its 2009 first quarter operational review here, the company revealed that it had also produced 2% less alumina and 15%less iron ore, but 33% more refined copper from January to March this year than in the same period in 2008.

Rio Tinto – the world’s top aluminium maker since 2007 after buying Canada’s Alcan – has proposed selling minority asset stakes and more equity to state-owned Chinese aluminium group Chinalco – already its biggest shareholder – to raise US$19.5 billion (more than R200 billion) to help weather the bust in commodities markets.

“Markets remain volatile and the timing of global economic recovery uncertain,” said Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese in a statement. He added that he saw Chinese steel demand recovering in the second half of 2009.

A decline in aluminium output was flagged earlier this year when Rio Tinto announced cuts to address a sharp drop in demand and pricing. Over the quarter, a steady performance at the Canadian smelters was outweighed by production cutbacks in operations in Europe and at a smelter in New Zealand, the company said.

Referring to iron ore, Albanese said the company was on track with earlier guidance to mine about 200 million tonnes globally in 2009, after reporting a 15 % year-on-year first quarter decline in overall production.