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Tickers in this Article: RIO, TAHO, AUMN
Rio Tinto Plc. (RIO) announced its production report for the fourth quarter and 2012. According to the company, although the markets remained unstable over the last year, it experienced a good year in terms of production. Rio saw an increase across all the segments in the year 2012 including copper, bauxite, alumina, thermal coal and titanium dioxide businesses. IronOre

Rio's production of iron ore reached 78.7% of the global iron ore production in the year 2012, which stands at 253 million tons. Of the total production, 191 million tons of iron ore were produced through the Pilbara operations of the company.

The production was impacted by weather disruptions in the first quarter of 2012 along with the shut-down of Cape Lambert facilities in the second quarter. Also, the company expects the expansion of Pilbara from 353 Mt/a to 360 Mt/a by the first half of 2015.

Copper

Rio produced a total of 828.1 Mt of copper (mined and refined) in 2012. The copper production, contained in concentrate at the company's Kennecott Utah Copper facility, saw an increase of 26% in the fourth quarter year over year. Production of mined copper in the Escondida facility for 2012 represented a hike of 38% year over year.

The production at the Palabora facility fell down year over year due to an ore-hoisting shaft guide rope failure in July 2012 and the industrial action impact in the fourth quarter, following which, Rio proposed to sell-off its 57.7% stake in Palabora Mining Company Limited for $373 million.

Aluminium

Rio produced 10,041 Mt, 3,456 Mt and 39,363 Mt of alumina, aluminium and bauxite, respectively, in the year 2012. The major contribution for the production came from the Alcan facility where 6,968 Mt, 2,174 Mt and 31,419 Mt, respectively, of alumina, aluminium and bauxite were produced.

Energy

Coal: The company produced 8,045 Mt of Hard coking coal, 3,286 Mt of Semi-soft coking coal and 20,648 Mt of thermal coal in the year 2012. The Australian thermal coal production experienced an increase in the fourth quarter of 37% year over year, due to many factors, like, an increase in plant capacity at Bengalla, a surge in ownership in the former Coal & Allied operations and expansion at Clermont Mine. 

Uranium: The Uranium production saw a tremendous growth of 49% and 26% year over year at Energy Resources of Australia and Rossing, respectively.

Diamonds and Minerals

Rio produced 12,809 metric carats of diamonds with the minerals production at 2,057 Mt and salt at 6,833 Mt in 2012. The diamond production increased due to Rio's access to the higher grade ore.

Moreover, the underground mine at Argyle is expected to start initial production in the first half of 2013, with the total production to start from 2015. Salt production reduced in the fourth quarter of 2012 due to unfavorable weather conditions.   

Although the production report of the company portrays a considerable increase in all the business segments, the true picture of the company's financials can only be captured in the earnings release for the fourth quarter and 2012, due next month. Currently, the stock bears a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), while its competitors Tahoe Resources Inc. (TAHO) and Golden Minerals Co. (AUMN) carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), respectively.

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