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Rio Tinto’s port expansions on track

<p>Rio Tinto’s port expansion at Dampier port is well on track to accommodate the major boost in volume and its new partnership with Hancock Prospecting, despite the scarcity in mining materials, equipment and skills.</p> <p>Rio’s confidence comes as it reports first half earnings of US$2.09bn ($2.7bn), nearly double the profit of the same time last year.</p> <p>Iron ore production went up by 8.3m tonnes, 16 % from 2004.</p> <p>Rio is expanding the Dampier facilities from 74m tonnes to 85m tonnes, and has plans to develop facilities to handle 120m tonnes and the Robe River Associates port facilities at Cape Lambert, to 50m tonnes.</p> <p>The company has begun commissioning of the port expansion, and the project’s budget of $115m is on track.</p> <p>Rio Tinto’s chief executive, Leigh Clifford, said it was a challenging time to be undertaking major construction projects, considering the competitive prices for mining equipment and skills.</p> <p>But Rio’s ability to set a competitive price is boosted by it securing the benchmark price of 71.5% rise in iron ore prices for China and Japan for the year.</p> <p>The Brownfield mine expansion at Tom Price, Marandoo and Nammuldi in the Pilbara, are also expected to add to the volumes moving through the Dampier Port.</p> <p>Hammersley Iron achieved record shipments in the first half of 2005, with earnings of US$145m and Rio’s US$685m project to expand iron ore infrastructure to 116m tonnes is 76% complete.</p> <p>Rio’s iron ore mine, Robe River, made a profit of US$145m, US$86m up from the first half of 2004. The rail duplication is proceeding on schedule.</p> <p>Mr Clifford said as China committed to a nuclear generation investment program, the longer-term outlook for uranium demand looked very positive.</p> <p>Prices for export coking coal have remained strong, driven mainly by Chinese steel production.</p> <p>Rio has offset the Australia and South Africa infrastructure constraints with increased Indonesian and Colombian supply.</p> <p>Mr Clifford said the Hail Creek coal expansion was constrained due to labour cost pressures, and would remain at 8m tonnes a year.</p> <br />