research and analysis by   SERAPHIM BLENTZAS     dalhousie university

 Mt = Million Tonnes

The $340 million investment in the Molybdenum Autoclave Process (MAP) facility in Magna, Utah might seem like a strange move for a company that is so keen on divesting assets outside of copper, iron ore and aluminum.  Take a closer look at the situation in Utah and it makes sense;

Despite a 5.4% increase in Mb output from Kennecott's operations in 2011 production still has yet to recover to 2007 levels.  Ore grades are at low levels there so the facility is necessary; 

The facility makes processing of ore more efficient, improves molybdenum recovery and enables higher grade metallurgical products to be produced.

Update: In early March 2012 Rio Tinto (world's 3rd largest mining company) announced an investment of $2 billion in an iron-ore project in the state of Orissa, India.  Rio's goal there is to produce 15M tonnes/yr.  If granted by the state, Rio will end up with 51% share in the project compared to 44% for Orissa Mining Company and NMDC 5%.

The operations listed to the left represent all of Rio Tinto's major projects underway (2012-2015).  The sum of their capex spending exceeds $30 billion.  Rio Tinto has raised $11 billion from asset sales since 2008 which is helping to fuel the current spending spree.

2014/2016 new projects underway.

Rio Tinto's production by metal by year (2007-2011) & my summary of 2011 fiscal results can be found here.

Note: Subsidiary Kennecott Utah's Bingham Canyan mine produces between 15-18% of US refined copper.