Rio Tinto's full-year iron ore shipments drop on disruptions from cyclone and fire

(Reuters) - Rio Tinto RIO.AX on Friday posted a 3% drop in iron ore shipments in 2019 as the Anglo-Australian miner's operations faced disruptions due to cyclone and a fire at a port facility.

Iron ore shipped from Australia’s Pilbara region in 2019 was 327.4 million tonnes, the company said, well within its forecast of 320 million tonnes to 330 million tonnes.

The company said it made up for the disruptions in the first half by way of higher iron ore production and shipments than a year earlier. However, in the fourth-quarter, shipments of the steel-making material dipped 1% to 86.8 million tonnes.

The global miner has benefited from a jump in iron ore prices following a supply squeeze due to a fatal dam collapse in Brazil early last year. But with global production now stabilizing, the prices are off their highs.

The company expects iron ore shipments, which accounts for more than 60% of its profit, to be between 330 million tonnes and 343 million tonnes in 2020.

Rio Tinto has been shipping out higher volumes of a lower grade, 60 percent SP 10 product, as it struggles with operational bottlenecks at its new Koodaideri mine in Western Australia, from where it expects to produce ore in late 2021.

The London-based miner posted a 28% jump in bauxite production in 2019 and said it expected aluminum production to be between 3.1 million tonnes and 3.3 million tonnes in 2020.

It also set 2020 target of 530,000 to 580,000 tonnes of mined copper.

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan and Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur