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Rio Tinto iron ore shipments up 5pct in Q4

Rio Tinto has met its fourth quarter iron ore production guidance but is warning there are many risks to the commodity market in the coming year.

The Anglo-Australian miner on Tuesday said it shipped 87.3 million tonnes of Pilbara iron ore in the fourth quarter, up five per cent from the third quarter.

For the year Rio produced 324.1 million tonnes in 2022, one per cent higher than in 2021. It shipped 321.6m tonnes, about the same as in 2021. Shipments were at the lower end of its guidance of 320 to 335m tonnes shipped, but slightly better than analysts' expectations.

"A number of operational records were achieved in the second half across the Pilbara iron ore mine and rail system," said chief executive Jakob Stausholm.

Rio Tinto said it expects its Gudai-Darri mine 110km northwest of Newman in Western Australia to reach nameplate capacity this year after opening last June.

The mine is Rio Tinto's first in the Pilbara in more than a decade and is described as its most technologically advanced, a full fleet of autonomous trucks, trains and water carts.

Rio Tinto said its 2023 guidance was unchanged except for mined copper, which it is predicting it will produce more of given its increased ownership of the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia.

Inflation, diesel prices and labour costs mean its costs of production of Pilbara iron ore will end up having been slightly more than expected in 2022, Rio said.

But it warned that while commodity prices had found support in the fourth quarter, there were a number of risks around China's reopening, a recession in the United States and the war in the Ukraine.

In China, "the end to COVID controls in December and the subsequent wave of COVID cases bring high volatility in the coming quarter, with increased short-term risks of supply chain disruptions and labour shortages," Rio said.

At 1.22pm on Tuesday, Rio Tinto shares were down 1.4 per cent to $120.52 amid a broader selloff in the mining sector.