Rio Tinto, the LSE-listed international mining giant, has announced record first quarter iron ore production, shipments and rail volumes.

“Shipments from the Pilbara exceeded production in the quarter, despite the impact of tropical cyclone Christine which closed our ports for three days at the end of 2013 and affected the progressive recovery of rail and ports into January. The full ramp up is well on track to achieve nameplate capacity of 290 Mt/a by the end of the first half of 2014,” the company said in a statement.

Mined copper benefited from higher grades at Kennecott Utah Copper and production at Oyu Tolgoi, offseting the elimination of production from copper assets divested in 2013. Record first quarter bauxite production and shipments were driven by a ramp up of production at the Weipa mine in Australia to feed the newly expanded Yarwun alumina refinery. Production of coal improved in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013 due to the productivity improvement programme.

Exploration and evaluation expenditure was $155 million in the first quarter of 2014, sustaining the savings achieved in 2013 whilst progressing the highest priority future growth projects.

“Rio Tinto has started the year with a series of performance records as we continue to drive productivity gains across our operations. Our Pilbara iron ore business has again set new benchmarks for production, shipments and rail volumes for the first quarter and we are well on track to reach nameplate capacity of 290Mt/a by the end of the first half of 2014. Our mined copper production benefited from higher ore grades at Kennecott Utah Copper and production ramp up at Oyu Tolgoi and we also had a record first quarter for bauxite, primarily driven by higher production at Weipa,” said Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh.

Nevertheless, this has done little to improve the company’s reputation after the drop in its health and safety record due to 33 deaths at the Grasberg mine in Indonesia last year. A shareholder at Rio Tinto’s annual meeting allegedly accused the company of “getting as bad as BP.”

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