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Rio Tinto hard coking coal output grows strongly

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World Coal,

Despite a scheduled longwall changeover, production ramp up at the Kestrel coal mine helped Rio Tinto’s 3Q15 hard coking coal production jump 5% on 3Q14, while production for the first nine months of the year was up 10% at just under 6 million t from 5.42 million t in 2014.

Kestrel produced 1.99 million t of hard coking coal over the nine months to September, up from 1.61 million t in 2014, while production was also up at Hail Creek coal mine, reaching just under 3.97 million t compared to 3.8 million t last year.

Semi-soft coking coal production was also up strongly at 928 000 t for the quarter and 2.85 million for the nine months to September from 645 000 t and 2.49 million t respectively.

On the thermal side, production fell 6% in the first nine months of the year compared to 2014 as wet weather in the Hunter Valley impacted operations. Hunter Valley production was down from 7.26 million in 2014 to just 5.67 million t in 2015, while output at Warkworth and Bengalla were also down.

A strong jump in production at Hail Creek from 1.35 million t to 1.96 million t could only partially offset these falls with total thermal coal production totaling 13.46 million t for the nine months to September, down from 14.32 million t last year, and 4.62 million t for 3Q15.

For the full year, the company expects to produce 18 – 19 million t of thermal coal, 3 – 3.4 million t of semi-soft coking coal and 7.1 – 8.1 million t of hard coking coal.

Beyond coal, the company recorded shipments of 245.3 million t of iron ore over the first nine months of the year – a jump of 11% on 2014 – while iron ore production was also up 11% at 240.4 million. However, copper output fell 17% to 393 000 t over the first nine months, which the company attributed to its “continuing focus on deweighting and dewatering the east wall of Bingham Canyon [mine]” at its Kennacott Utah Copper operations.

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