Rio Tinto share price falls despite record iron ore exports

A man wearing a hard hat stands in front of heavy mining machinery with a serious look on his face.A man wearing a hard hat stands in front of heavy mining machinery with a serious look on his face.

 The Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX: RIO) share price is in the red amid the mining giant announcing record first-quarter iron ore shipments.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) company’s Pilbara iron ore business shipped 82.5 million tonnes of the steel-making material in the March quarter – a 16% jump on the prior comparable period.

The Rio Tinto share price is down 1.75% in early trade on Thursday, with stock in the miner swapping hands for $121.04 a share.

Let’s take a closer look at the company’s first-quarter production results, released this morning.

Rio Tinto share price drops on record first-quarter iron ore exports

Here are the key takeaways from the miner’s quarterly production report:

  • Its Pilbara iron ore business produced 79.3 million tonnes and shipped 82.5 million tonnes – marking respective jumps of 11% and 16%.
  • Rio Tinto produced 12.1 million tonnes of bauxite – an 11% slump
  • Its aluminium and titanium dioxide slag production lifted 7% and 4% to 785 kilotons and 285 kilotons respectively
  • Finally, its mined copper production was flat at 145 kilotons

Production at the company’s Kennecott copper operation dropped 36% due to record snowfall and the failure of a conveyor belt, while its Escondida and Oyu Tolgoi operations saw their copper production jump 6% and 41% respectively.

Rio Tinto spent US$310 million pre-tax on exploration and evaluation last quarter – up from $168 million in the prior period.

What else happened last quarter?

Commodity prices generally strengthened last quarter amid a resilient global economy, the company notes.  

Iron ore prices increased 8% over the period, lifting to an average monthly price of US$125 per dry metric tonne – up 27% on that of the final quarter of last year.

Meanwhile, the aluminium price slipped 1% over the quarter to an average of US$2,395 a tonne (up 3% quarter-on-quarter) and the copper price rose 7% to US$4.05 a pound.

Rio Tinto also entered a joint venture to kick start the development of its La Granja copper project and delivered the first sustainable production from the underground mine at Oyu Tolgoi during the period.

What did management say?

Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm commented on the update driving the company’s share price today, saying:

We continue to make steady progress with our highest ever first quarter shipments achieved in the Pilbara iron ore business.

Through the ongoing deployment of our Safe Production System we expect to see a sustainable lift in operating performance across our global portfolio over time, in line with improvements already achieved.

What’s next?

But there was some potentially disappointing news from the iron ore giant this morning.

Rio Tinto dropped its full-year copper production guidance to between 590 kilotons to 640 kilotons. That’s down from 650 kilotons to 710 kilotons.

The downgrade mainly reflects the impact of the conveyor outage at Kennecott and geotechnical challenges at Escondida’s open pit.

All other full-year production guidance remains unchanged.

Rio Tinto share price snapshot

The Rio Tinto share price has been outperforming the market in recent months.

The stock has gained 5% since the start of 2023. It’s also 3% higher than it was this time last year.

Comparatively, the ASX 200 has jumped 6% year to date and has fallen 3% over the last 12 months.

The post Rio Tinto share price falls despite record iron ore exports appeared first on The Motley Fool Australia.

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Motley Fool contributor Brooke Cooper has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia’s parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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