Softer iron ore prices and higher energy costs have dragged Rio Tinto’s full-year profit down from record heights.
The mining giant on Wednesday announced underlying earnings of $US13.3 billion ($A19.4 billion) in the 2022 calendar year, a 38 per cent fall from 2021.
Shareholders will receive total dividends equivalent to $US4.92 ($A7.18) per share, less than half of last year’s record return.
Rio said its lower net earnings reflected a fall in commodity prices and the impact of higher energy and raw material costs.
It also cited higher rates of inflation on operating costs and closure liabilities.
Chief executive Jakob Stausholm said the company’s operational performance had improved with the ramp-up of the Gudai-Darri mine in the Pilbara.
“Despite challenging market conditions, we remain resilient because of the quality of our assets, our great people and the strength of our balance sheet,” he said.
Rio produced 324.1 million tonnes of iron ore in 2022, one per cent more than in 2021.
Mr Stausholm expressed optimism during a teleconference about the global economic outlook, noting Europe appeared to be faring better than expected with its energy crisis.
China’s reopening after years of COVID-19 lockdowns was another positive development, he said.
Having focused on stabilising production with the addition of replacement projects in the Pilbara, Mr Stausholm said there would be a renewed focus on improving cost controls.
“Now we can start looking at the manpower efficiency and productivity in general,” he told reporters.
“It’s a very tight labour market right now, and therefore there are inflationary pressures. But I tend to focus on what we can control … you’re getting much higher rewards for being more efficient during tight times like now.”
Mr Stausholm said the company is still investigating the circumstances of an incident in January involving a tiny radioactive capsule, which fell out of a density gauge while being trucked by a contractor from a Rio mine to Perth.
The capsule was found earlier this month on an outback road south of Newman after days of intensive searching.
No contamination has been detected at the site.
Rio has apologised over the mishap and offered to reimburse the cost of the search.
“We have very good procedures in place that are international standard. What we learned in this case is that they didn’t entirely work and created a serious situation,” Mr Stausholm said.
“I’m very grateful for the West Australian government, how seriously they took it. We found it, which is wonderful. It’s still early days for the investigation.”
At the close of trade on Wednesday, Rio’s shares were down 0.5 per cent at $125.51.
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