(Adds details on Simandou project)
WASHINGTON May 16 Rio Tinto is
not actively seeking to divest assets this year but would
consider any attractive offers, Chief Executive Sam Walsh said
Rio, the world's third-largest miner, has been divesting
assets that it no longer considers core. Speculation has
centered on coal operations in Mozambique, South Africa and
Australia, but Walsh said there were no firm plans.
"If somebody comes along with a large checkbook and makes an
attractive offer, of course we'll consider that, no matter what
the commodity is, but we are not out in the market seeking for
people to buy our assets," he told reporters.
"We have no need to divest any assets during 2014; we are
focusing on the final work to get our balance sheet back in
Rio said earlier this week it had boosted iron ore output at
its Australian operations to 290 million tonnes a year, earlier
than expected. Meanwhile, rivals such as BHP Billiton
may face disruptions from a threatened tugboat strike at
Australia's main iron ore port, Port Hedland.
Asked if Rio Tinto had spot cargo to fill the breach, Walsh
said the company was already shipping to capacity.
"We are basically shipping flat-out, but we don't operate
our iron ore operations out of Port Hedland," he said.
Rio was also optimistic of finalizing an investment
agreement with Guinea for the Simandou iron ore deposit by the
end of the month, Walsh said on the sidelines of an event on
infrastructure in developing nations at the International
Finance Corporation (IFC).
Simandou, one of the largest untapped deposits of iron ore,
could turn the West African country into a major exporter of
Walsh said he expected $18 billion to be plowed into the
project during the construction phase, spanning four to five
years, with production starting towards the end of the decade.
"We are very hopeful that by the end of this month we will
have signed the investment framework, which then enables us to
finalize the finance, finalize the consortium and take the
project forward," he said.
Rio is developing the southern part of Simandou together
with the Guinea government, China's Aluminum Corp of China Ltd
(Chalco) and the IFC, the private lending arm of the
(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Tom
Brown and Steve Orlofsky)