Rio Tinto’s hard coking coal output down 28% in Q4

Hard coking coal output from Rio Tinto’s Australian operations fell 28% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2014 as the company upped production of thermal coal and ramped up its new Kestrel South mine.

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The miner produced a total of 1.6 million tonnes of hard coking coal during October-December, compared with 2.3 million tonnes a year earlier, according to its latest report released on Tuesday January 20.

The miner’s semi-soft coking coal production was down by more than one fifth over the same period at 728,000 tonnes.

The figures brought the total full-year production for hard coking coal to 7.1 million tonnes and semi-soft coking coal production to 3.2 million tonnes – respective year-on-year falls of 8% and 17%.

The drop in hard coking coal volumes was due to the prioritising of thermal coal production at Rio’s Hail Creek mine and the ramp up of the new south longwall at its Kestrel operations, following the completion of mining at Kestrel North in the first quarter of 2014, it said.

The slide in semi-soft coking coal output reflected the “operation flexibility to adjust the production mix in the Hunter Valley and maximise margins”, Rio said. Hunter Valley is where the majority of its thermal coal produced.

Rio Tinto cut its hard coking coal output guidance three times last year in the face of falling prices.

The hard coking coal quarterly benchmark plunged by almost 17% in 2014 while fob Australia spot prices dropped 15.2%, according to Steel First’s index.

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