Rio Tinto's alumina production up 8%

RIO TINTO'S coal and aluminium projects in Queensland are bouncing back, even as the Olympic sponsor keeps a close eye on three uncertain frontiers.

In its quarterly report released on Tuesday afternoon and covering April, May and June, Rio Tinto Alcan found its alumina production up 8% compared to the same time in 2011.

Queensland Alumina in Gladstone had recovered from flooding in 2011, plus the Yarwun refinery expansion has pumped capacity up from 1.4 million tonnes to 3.4 million.

The first bauxite was processed there on July 5.

Meanwhile, steel-making coal from Kestrel Mine near Emerald helped boost production even as the limping Hail Creek project near Mackay was hit by bad weather and dragline issues.

Compared to the second quarter of 2011, there was a 13% increase in coal exports.

Clermont Mine's thermal coal mine - a type used to create electricity - produced 15% more coal compared to the start of 2012, in line with what it was producing at this time in 2011.

Like Kestrel, it became the workhorse that carried those other mines still reeling from bad weather at the start of both 2011 and 2012.

For 2012, the company is expected to mine 8.5 million tonnes of hard steel-making coal, 3.5 million tonnes of "semi-soft" steel-making coal and 19.5 million tonnes of thermal coal.

Chief executive Tom Albanese said the second quarter was "strong across most of the portfolio" with iron, copper, bauxite, alumina, steel-making coal and titanium dioxide all above 2011 figures.

But he warned economic conditions and confidence had fallen.

"We are keeping a close eye on the pace of the US recovery, the continuing Eurozone crisis and the impact of efforts to stimulate the Chinese economy on the markets we serve," he said.

Mr Albanese said despite the volatility, Rio Tinto's investments remained resilient.

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