Davis Index: Market Intelligence for the Global Metals and Recycled Materials Markets

Rio Tinto’s annual production of mined copper fell by 5pc to 577,400mt in 2019. Aluminium production was down 2pc to 3,171,000mt. Rio has kept its production guidance unchanged but is evaluating the near term impact of Covid-19 on its operations.


Mined copper production was 5pc lower than 2018 amid lower copper grades at all three operations and partly offset by higher throughput and productivity improvements. Refined copper production was 6pc lower, largely due to reduced copper concentrate availability at Escondida and Kennecott smelters.


Production (kt)20192018Pc Change
Aluminium Production3,1713,231-2%
Mined Copper577.4608-5%
Refined Copper260275-6%


Production at the end of 2019 was impacted by the curtailment of operations at its Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) in South Africa. Operations were slowed in mid-November following an escalation in violence in the communities surrounding the operations and curtailed at the beginning of December. A phased restart had begun at the end of December.



The company is evaluating the impact of the Covid-19 virus, which could create significant uncertainty for the business in the near term. Subject to the ongoing evaluation, guidance is however kept unchanged from the prior announced guidance. The company said that operations are looking at opportunities to adjust to the impact of the Covid-19 virus on market conditions.

Capital expenditure by Rio Tinto is expected to be around $7.0bn in 2020, following the deferral of $0.5bn from 2019, and around $6.5bn in each of 2021 and 2022. Each year includes sustaining capex of around $2.5 billion per year, of which $1.0-1.5 billion is for our Pilbara iron ore business.


2020 production guidance
Mined Copper (kt)530-570
Refined Copper (kt)205-235
Bauxite (mt)55-58
Alumina (mt)7.8-8.2
Aluminium (mt)3.1-3.3


Growth Projects

In October, Rio Tinto completed the primary production shaft work at the Oyu Tolgoi underground copper-gold mine in Mongolia. Mine design work is expected to be completed in the first half of 2020. 

The company has invested $463mn in the Zulti South project at RBM, South Africa to sustain current capacity and extend the mine life. Construction is on hold after several security incidents, the company will assess the situation and restart work after normalisation of operations at RBM.

Financial Results

The company posted a consolidated revenue of $43,165mn, up by 7pc in 2019. Operation profit stood at $11,466mn, down by 35pc from the year prior. Net profit plunged in 2019 to $6,972mn, down by 50pc from 2018.

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