Rio Tinto releases fourth quarter production results

16 January 2018

Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques said "The business performed well in the fourth quarter, and we finished the year in line with guidance across all major products. We shipped 90 million tonnes of iron ore from our world-class Pilbara assets, a record quarter which demonstrates the system’s growing flexibility. In 2017 we announced over $8 billion of cash returns to shareholders and continued to reshape the portfolio. Our focus on value over volume and mine-to-market productivity, along with disciplined allocation of cash, will ensure that we continue to deliver superior shareholder returns in the short, medium and the long term."


  Q4 2017 vs Q4 2016 vs Q3 2017 2017 2016
Pilbara iron ore shipments (100% basis) Mt 90.0 +3% +5% 330.1 +1%
Pilbara iron ore production (100% basis) Mt 87.9 +3% +3% 329.8 +0%
Bauxite kt 13,762 +14% +7% 50,796 +6%
Aluminium kt 887 -3% +0% 3,551 -1%
Mined copper kt 148.6 +11% +23% 478.1 -9%
Hard coking coal kt 2,322 +6% +3% 7,704 -5%
Titanium dioxide slag kt 341 +14% +4% 1,315 +25%
IOC iron ore pellets and concentrate Mt 2.7 -0% -14% 11.2 +5%

Key points

  • Pilbara iron ore shipments of 90.0 million tonnes in the fourth quarter were three per cent higher than the fourth quarter of 2016. Total shipments for 2017 of 330.1 million tonnes were in line with guidance.
  • Bauxite production of 50.8 million tonnes was six per cent higher than 2016 and in line with upwardly revised full year guidance. Third party shipments increased by ten per cent to 32.3 million tonnes.
  • Aluminium production of 3.6 million tonnes was in line with guidance with generally strong performance slightly offset by lower production at Boyne and Sohar.
  • Mined copper production of 478.1 thousand tonnes was nine per cent lower than 2016 due primarily to the impact of a 43 day strike at Escondida in the first quarter. Production was in line with revised guidance.
  • Titanium dioxide slag production of 1.3 million tonnes was 25 per cent higher than 2016, reflecting increased market demand, with strengthening pigment prices supported by low inventory and tight supply.
  • Production and shipment guidance for 2018 remains unchanged from the estimates provided at the investor seminar held on 4 December 2017.
  • The major growth projects remain on track. The Silvergrass iron ore mine was commissioned in the fourth quarter of 2017 and will continue to ramp up in 2018. Amrun is on schedule for first bauxite shipment in the first half of 2019 and construction of the first drawbell at Oyu Tolgoi Underground is expected in mid-2020.
  • In November, Rio Tinto successfully completed an A$750 million off-market buy-back in Rio Tinto Limited shares and in December completed a $1.5 billion on-market buy-back of Rio Tinto plc shares. An additional $1.925 billion on-market buy-back in Rio Tinto plc shares commenced on 27 December 2017 and is to be completed no later than 31 December 2018.
  • On 10 January 2018, Rio Tinto announced it had received a binding offer for the sale of the Aluminium Dunkerque smelter in France for $500 million, subject to final adjustments. The sale is expected to complete in the second quarter of 2018, subject to satisfactory completion of consultations with key stakeholders.

All figures in this report are unaudited. All currency figures in this report are US dollars, and comments refer to Rio Tinto’s share of production, unless otherwise stated. To allow production numbers to be compared on a like-for-like basis, production from asset divestments completed in 2016 is excluded from Rio Tinto share of production data but assets sold in 2017 remain in comparisons.