Gold may be the most glamorous of the markets in which Rio Tinto has a heavy stake, but it is less precious metals that have proved more lucrative in recent times. Announcing healthy production figures last month, the metals and mining corporation said total coal production in 1999, at 139 million tonnes, was 22% higher than in 1998. Aluminium production was up 9% in 1999 while Hamersley Iron reported shipments at their second highest annual level ever. These results overshadowed gold production which, for the year, rose by 6% to just under three million ounces. But with prices depressed, it is a commodity that has been in the doldrums for some time. But, these figures should underpin a good results announcement next Thursday by finance director Christopher Bull, a nine-year veteran of the company. Sales are expected to have dipped 10% to below £5bn for the year to December but profits should show a 26% rise to £1.15bn. The price of gold is showing signs of retaining its shine and with its other markets strong, Rio Tinto will be hoping that recovery here will help it retain a Midas touch across all markets.
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