Rio Tinto 'rethink' clouds expansion

RIO Tinto's expansion of Central Queensland coal operations could be reviewed after chief executive Tom Albanese reportedly flagged that higher costs were forcing a rethink.

The British giant is majority shareholder and manager of four operations in Queensland, including Kestrel Mine near Emerald, Hail Creek near Mackay, Blair Athol and Clermont.

Only Kestrel mine is undergoing an expansion that began in 2007 to extend the life of the mine by up to 20 years.

The Australian Financial Review yesterday reported Rio chief Tom Albanese - who will today front a charity breakfast in Brisbane - discussed the high cost of doing business in Australia when he met Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson.

Mr Albanese was understood to have told investors of growing costs in Australia, including our high dollar, labour restrictions and the carbon tax.

Rio Tinto declined to comment.

Meanwhile, after $1.4 billion was spent growing the world's third-largest coal port in Central Queensland almost three years ago, Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal remains at half-steam.

The port - south of Mackay in Central Queensland - can deliver more than seven million tonnes of coal to ships every month.

It is only moving four million tonnes a month at present - an amount which would have been easily handled by the terminal before its expansion. Although seven mining giants are delivering coal to the port, the State's peak mining body denies the figures are bad news.

The Queensland Resources Council said it believed a particularly wet rainy season and high water levels in mines had caused the slowdown.

But terminal operations general manager Greg Smith told APN the supply lull was created by falling demand from Japan, Korea and China.



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