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Q4: Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) share price in focus

The Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) share price is in focus today after releasing its production numbers for the fourth quarter of 2021.

Rio Tinto Q4 numbers

The iron ore mining giant revealed that its Pilbara iron ore shipments and production were 84.1 mt. The shipments were down 4% compared to the fourth quarter of 2020 but up 1% on the third quarter of 2021.

Year on year, quarterly bauxite production was down 2% to 13.1 mt, aluminium production was down 7% to 757 kt, and copper production was flat at 132 kt.

The mining giant was also able to tell investors about its full year numbers for 2021 as this was the last quarter of its year. Full year iron ore production was down 4% to 319.7 mt. Bauxite, aluminium and copper suffered production declines of 3%, 1% and 7% respectively.

Rio Tinto also admitted that commissioning and ramp-up of Pilbara growth and brownfield mine replacement projects have been impacted by ongoing COVID restrictions, including labour access and supply chain quality issues.

Lithium

Rio Tinto is looking to grow its exposure to the battery mineral lithium.

It’s seeing protests and delays with its large lithium-borate project in Serbia called Jadar. There are concerns about the company’s environmental impact on the local environment. It now is expecting first saleable production to be no earlier than 2027 (previously it was 2026).

However, it’s also buying the Rincon lithium project in Argentina for $825 million. This is one of the largest undeveloped lithium brine projects in the world.

Green initiatives

In the December 2021 quarter it announced a number of partnerships focused on decarbonising the value chain of products, including green steel.

For example, it has signed a memorandum of understanding with BlueScope Steel Limited (ASX: BSL) to research and design low-emissions processes for the steel value chain.

It also announced that its ELYSIS partnership successfully produced aluminium without any direct greenhouse emissions in Canada. Work is now focused on accelerating the scale-up of this technology towards the demonstration of even larger commercial-sized cells in 2023.

Summary thoughts on the Rio Tinto share price

The Rio Tinto share price has risen more than 20% over the past two months as the iron ore price recovered.

I’m positive on the green moves by Rio Tinto, as well as the expansion into lithium. It might be a long-term buy today, but I think 2022 could see the Rio Tinto share price fall below $100 again later in the year. If it did drop below $100 again, I’d be willing to buy a few shares considering it’s adding more diversification.

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