Home > Rio Tinto didn’t expect iron ore to crash this low: CFO

Rio Tinto didn’t expect iron ore to crash this low: CFO

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Head of finance at Rio Tinto said the falling price of iron ore, coal and oil has come as a surprise to most in the industry.

Iron ore is battling losses of nearly 50 per cent while oil has lost around 40 per cent of its value.

Coking and thermal coal have also seen price falls of close to 15 per cent.

Rio’s finance chief Chris Lynch said the price slips have been lower than anticipated.

"Is it lower than where I thought it would be right now? Well I don't try and predict where it is near term but it is probably lower than where I think anyone saw it would be immediately," Lynch told Fairfax Media.

"But you could also say the same is true for oil - and coal probably."

The price of iron ore has once again slipped below $US70 a tonne, and it sitting close to five-year lows.

Oil is also struggling at five-year lows of $US68 a barrel.

Rio and BHP Billiton have been blamed for the iron ore price falls as they push more supply into an already flooded market.

This week a former Rio executive said junior miners struggling to deal with the drop in price should publicly ask the ACCC to investigate.

Lynch denied the two majors were working to keep prices subdued.

"We can always choose to run our assets as we choose to run them but the concept of deliberately trying to manipulate the market isn't something we would ever contemplate," Lynch said.

"There are always going to be slight mis-matches whenever you've got a long term view of what demand looks like and supply will come at various rates. At times it will come a little more than immediate demand, at others it will come too slow. But eventually it will work its way out in the market."

Lynch said Rio was focused on cost savings as it ramps up production at its Pilbara operations to 360 million tonnes of iron ore per annum.

The company has said it would aim to cut a further $US1 billion of annual operating costs, on top of annual cost savings of $US3.2 billion achieved since 2012.

"As much as we'd like it to be different, it's still a cyclical industry. During the really hot market years, costs were being bid up fairly heavily," Lynch said.

"Now those costs are hard to get out but once you have the opportunity to do that you need to take advantage of that opportunity and I think we are in that mode now. There is a lot more competitive pitching in bids and costs are coming down."

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