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

The Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX: RIO) share price is under the spotlight after the ASX miner released its 2023 Q4 update.

Rio Tinto is one of the largest resource businesses in the world, producing commodities like iron ore, copper and aluminium.

Production numbers

Now that the company’s 2023 financial year is finished, which follows the calendar year, Rio Tinto was able to reveal its quarterly and annual numbers.

Pilbara iron ore production amounted to 87.5mt, down 2% compared to the fourth quarter of 2022, but up 5% compared to the 2023 third quarter.

Quarterly mined copper of 160kt was an increase of 5% year over year.

Aluminium quarterly production was 846kt, an increase of 8% year over year.

Turning to the annual numbers, Pilbara iron ore production for 2023 was 331.5mt, up 2%. Copper production rose 2% to 620kt and aluminium production increased 9% to 3,272kt.

What drove the growth?

Rio Tinto explained its iron ore numbers rose thanks to improved productivity, with the ongoing implementation of the ‘Safe Production System’ and the ramp-up of Gudai-Darri to its nameplate capacity of 43mt per year within 12 months of commissioning.

The copper production grew thanks to the first sustainable production from underground mining Mongolian project Oyu Tolgoi in the first quarter, and a full year of increased ownership. This offset challenges at Kennecott after conveyor failure in March, with the concentrator not returning to full capacity until the third quarter.

Aluminium production benefited from a return to full capacity at the Kitimat smelter and completed cell recovery efforts at Boyne during the third quarter. All other smelters “continued to demonstrate stable performance.”

Outlook for the Rio Tinto share price

Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm talked about the growth outlook for the business:

We made real progress in shaping our portfolio for the future, entering the recycled aluminium market in North America and progressing the world class Simandou iron ore project in Guinea. We have one of the most exciting exploration pipelines in years, including our new copper joint venture with Codelco, launched in December. We continue to work hard to transform our culture and to invest in deep engagement and partnerships with Traditional Owners, such as our agreement to explore renewable energy projects with the Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation.

There is good demand for the materials we produce, and our purpose and long-term strategy make more sense than ever. The work we are doing today is creating a stronger Rio Tinto for years to come, as we invest in profitable growth while continuing to deliver attractive shareholder returns.”

The ASX miner seems to be doing the right things to perform well at its existing projects, and it’s looking at future projects. Due to the strength of the iron ore price, I don’t think this is the best time to invest, but if the iron ore price did plunge to below US$100 per tonne (or even lower), I’d be thinking about buying.

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