Rio Tinto’s copper output slumps on Chile strike

SYDNEY (AFP) – Mining giant Rio Tinto reported a plunge in its copper output yesterday as a strike in Chile and Indonesian regulatory changes hit production.

In a quarterly report, the world’s second-biggest miner said copper output slumped 37 per cent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year to 84.2 thousand tonnes, adding it had cut its production forecast for the year.

It cited a 43-day strike at the world’s largest copper mine – BHP Billiton’s Escondida in Chile where Rio has a 30 per cent interest – as among reasons for the fall, having “adversely impacted” production.

The strike ended on March 24 but production was only expected to reach normal levels by July, the Anglo-Australian firm said.

Also causing a headache for the miner was a controversial U-turn on mineral exports policy in Indonesia.

Regulations introduced in January to relax a ban on shipments of raw mineral ores triggered a standoff with US miner Freeport-McMoRan, halting shipments at its vast copper and gold mine Grasberg, in which Rio has a stake.

Rio reported zero output from Grasberg in the January-March period this year, saying the new rules “may have a significant impact on its share of production in 2017”.