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Mining giant, Rio Tinto Plc. (RIO - Analyst Report) reported improved first-quarter 2013 production data on Apr 16. Despite seasonal instability over the last year resulting especially from cyclones, this processor of mineral resources was able to operate well enough to deliver better production.

Rio saw a year-over-year increase in production across most of its business segments including aluminium, bauxite, thermal coal, mined coal, iron ore, uranium and salt. However, products like alumina, diamonds and gold experienced a year-over-year decline.

Rio’s iron ore shipments increased 7.0% year over year, whereas iron ore production moved up 4.0% in the quarter ending March 2013. This was due to de-bottlenecking and productivity improvements in the company’s Australian operations, Pilbara, which helped Rio overcome the disruptions caused by the cyclones.

Also, Rio’s initiative to increase the Pilbara production capacity to 290 million tonnes per year seems to be in a positive direction, and it expects to produce the estimated yield in the third quarter of 2013. 

Kennecott Utah Copper mine significantly increased its copper production in the quarter, compared with the year-ago quarter. However, the wall slide experienced at the Kennecott Utah Copper’s Bingham Canyon Mine has turned out to be a major hindrance to its future production expectations. In view of the same, Rio has reduced the mine’s expected mined copper production by 125,000 tonnes to 540,000 tonnes in 2013. Likewise, the expected production for refined copper is also reduced by 100,000 tonnes to 205,000 tonnes in 2013.

Rio has a number of projects which are currently either underway or have recently started operations. These projects are scattered over regions such as Canada, Namibia, Australia, USA, Chile and Uzbekistan, to name a few. We expect Rio to increase its production in the coming quarters through the completion of its planned strategic moves.

Rio currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).  Other stocks worth a look in the mining industry are Cameco Corporation (CCJ - Snapshot Report); carrying a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy); whereas Materion Corporation (MTRN - Snapshot Report) and Alumina Ltd. , carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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