Rio Tinto shipped more iron ore than it produced in the first quarter of 2014.
Releasing its operational update today, the miner announced it shipped 66.7 million tonnes in the three months to March while it produced 66.4 million tonnes over the same period.
Quarter on quarter, iron ore shipments were down 8 per cent and production fell 6 per cent.
But compared to the same quarter in 2013 iron ore shipments were up 16 per cent and production was 8 per cent higher.
Rio blamed tropical cyclone Christine, which closed the company’s ports for three days at the end of 2013 and affected its operations into January.
The first quarter for Australian iron ore miners is seasonally wet and does historically see less tonnes mined.
“Production in the first quarter was below the fourth quarter levels due to disruption caused by seasonal weather patterns,” the company said.
“Severe tropical cyclone Christine closed Rio Tinto’s Pilbara ports and coastal rail operations in late December.
“Heavy rainfall associated with this cyclone and other adverse weather conditions in January and February impacted across mine, rail and port operations.”
But in terms of volumes, the company’s increased shipments is interesting because as the iron ore price drops off, miners will be looking to move more tonnes and improve the cost per tonne to make up the difference.
Rio said it is planning to add another 60 million tonnes in capacity to its Pilbara operations in WA between 2014 to 2017.
The miner has maintained its full financial year production guidance of 295 million tonnes by the first half of 2014.
Rio shares were trading at $63.43 on the ASX a short time ago.