Rio Tinto is shipping less iron ore than it digs up

Rio Tinto’s Sam Walsh. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Rio Tinto, one of the the big miners accused by smaller producers of flooding the market with iron ore, actually produced and shipped fewer tonnes in the March quarter compared to the three months to December.

Rio loaded 72.5 million tonnes of iron ore on ships in the latest quarter. This is 12% less than the December quarter, but 9% higher than the same quarter in 2014.The number was below markets expectations of about 80 million tonnes.

Actual production, at 74.7 million tonnes, was 6% less than the December quarter, but 12% higher than the year before.

This means Rio shipped 2.2 million fewer tonnes in the quarter than it produced.

Iron ore prices have fallen 60% in the past year and is now trading about $US50 a tonne.

CEO Sam Walsh says the company is driving efficiency in parts of the business.

“By making best use of our high quality assets, low cost base and operating and commercial capability our aim is to protect our margins in the face of declining prices and maximise returns for shareholders throughout the cycle,” he said.

Fortescue Metals, a pure play iron ore producer, claims big players such as BHP and Rio are helping to drive down iron ore prices by producing more and more ore, flooding the market at the same time as China cuts back on shipments.

Rio expects full year 2015 global iron ore shipment shipments to be on target at 350 million tonnes from its operations in Australia and Canada. It will use stockpiles throughout the year to maximise cash flows.

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