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Rio Tinto Announces First Quarter Operations Review (posted 4/23/09)

April 23, 2009
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In reviewing the company’s first quarter 2009 operations, Rio Tinto Chief Executive Tom Albanese said, “First quarter production was in line with reduced market demand and iron ore was further affected by heavy rains. We have acted swiftly where necessary to reduce costs and conserve cash. Markets remain volatile and the timing of global economic recovery uncertain. We made good progress on divestments in the quarter, with sales of $2.5 billion agreed. We remain committed to delivering the Chinalco transaction and our focus is on successfully navigating the regulatory processes before putting it to a shareholder vote.”

Rio Tinto’s first quarter global production of iron ore was down 15% on the first quarter of 2008 but was in line with the previous quarter. Global iron ore guidance for 2009 remains around 200 million metric tons (mmt), with an expected recovery in Chinese steel demand in the second half of 2009. Pilbara iron ore production of 36 mmt (29 mmt on an attributable basis), which was down 15% on the first quarter of 2008 but was stable compared with the prior quarter, was adversely impacted by severe weather conditions. Pilbara iron ore shipments of 39 mmt were down 9% on 2008.

Production of bauxite was down 19%, alumina down 2% and aluminum down 6%, compared with the first quarter of 2008, following production cutbacks in response to the sharp fall in demand.

Mined copper production was up 9% on the first quarter of 2008, following significant recovery in copper grades at Kennecott Utah Copper and Grasberg, partly offset by a further decline in copper grades and continued operational difficulties at Escondida. Refined copper production was up 33% on the first quarter of 2008, resulting from improved performance and higher concentrate grades at Kennecott Utah Copper and higher throughput at Escondida.

Australian hard coking coal was up 32% on the first quarter of 2008. Australian thermal coal production was down 2% on the same period.

Uranium production held steady at 3.4 million pounds.

Minerals production contracted in line with market demand, with borates and titanium dioxide feedstock down 27 and 9%, respectively.

During the first quarter, Rio Tinto announced divestments totaling $2.5 billion, including $850 million for the undeveloped potash assets in Argentina and Canada, $750 million for the Corumbá iron ore operation in Brazil, $761 million for the Jacobs Ranch coal mine in the U.S. and $125 million for the Ningxia aluminum smelter in China. The Corumbá and Jacobs Ranch divestments remain subject to regulatory approval.

Visit www.riotinto.com for additional details.

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