Rio Tinto plc recently released its operations review for the fourth quarter of 2009. “We are seeing recovery across most of our key commodities, although we continue to be cautious on the state of the global economy going into 2010, as stimulus packages start to wind down,” said Tom Albanese, chief executive. “This was another very strong quarter for iron ore production, driven by continuing high demand in China. We made good progress in divestments, with $1.85 billion of sales completed in the fourth quarter, and have now agreed sales of $10.3 billion since we began the divestment program in 2008.”
Fourth quarter bauxite production was 1% lower than the same quarter of 2008 and 22% higher than the 2009 third quarter. Production at Weipa increased by 25% compared with the third quarter due to rising third-party demand.
Fourth quarter alumina production was 2% lower than the same quarter of 2008 and 2% lower for the full year, following production cuts at the Vaudreuil (Jonquiere) and Gardanne alumina refineries. These production cuts offset record annual production at the Queensland Alumina, Yarwun, Gove and Sao Luis (Alumar) refineries. Gove and Alumar continued to ramp up their expansions and presented annual production increases of 8 and 10%, respectively. In addition, Rio Tino Alcan restarted idled capacity at the Vaudreuil refinery in Quebec in response to improving alumina market conditions.
Minerals segment production continued to be affected by lower demand in line with reduced economic activity across all major regions. In addition, planned maintenance shutdowns occurred during the quarter and reductions in inventory levels were targeted.
Fourth quarter borates production was 9% lower than the same quarter of 2008 and 12% lower than the 2009 third quarter as a result of year-end shutdowns for scheduled maintenance. Fourth quarter talc production increased by 18% compared with the same 2008 period, as European markets staged a modest recovery. Fourth quarter titanium dioxide feedstock production continued to be impacted by weak market conditions, although production ramped up after the eight-week shutdown at QIT in the third quarter.
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