Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said: “It has been an extraordinary year our successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic and strong safety performance were overshadowed by the tragic events at the Juukan Gorge, which should never have happened. “During 2020, the agility and resilience of the business and our employees, coupled with strong commodity prices, enabled us to deliver underlying EBITDA of $23.9 …

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said: “It has been an extraordinary year our successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic and strong safety performance were overshadowed by the tragic events at the Juukan Gorge, which should never have happened.

“During 2020, the agility and resilience of the business and our employees, coupled with strong commodity prices, enabled us to deliver underlying EBITDA of $23.9 billion and Return on Capital Employed of 27%. As a result, the Board has approved a total dividend of 557 US cents per share including a special dividend of 93 US cents per share, representing a 72% full year pay-out ratio, which builds on our five-year pay-out track record.

“My new executive team and wider leadership of the company are all committed to unleashing Rio Tinto’s full potential. We will increase our focus on operational excellence and project development and strengthen our ESG credentials. Working closely with the Board, we must earn the right to become a trusted partner for Traditional Owners, host communities, governments and other stakeholders but we all recognise that this will require sustained and consistent effort.

“Safe and well-run operations, together with world-class assets, great people, capital discipline and a strong balance sheet, leave Rio Tinto well placed to generate superior returns for shareholders, invest in sustaining and growing our portfolio, and make a broader contribution to society.”

At year end

2020

2019

Change

Net cash generated from operating activities (US$ millions)

15,875

14,912

6%

Capital expenditure 1 (US$ millions)

6,189

5,488

13%

Free cash flow 2 (US$ millions)

9,407

9,158

3%

Underlying EBITDA 2 (US$ millions)

44,611

43,165

3%

Underlying earnings 2 (US$ millions)

23,902

21,197

13%

Net earnings (US$ millions)

9,769

8,010

22%

Underlying earnings 2 per share (US cents)

769.6

636.3

21%

Ordinary dividend per share (US cents)

464.0

382.0

21%

Total dividend per share (US cents)

557.0

443.0

26%

Net debt 2 (US$ millions)

(664)

(3,651)

Return on capital employed (ROCE) 2

27%

24%

Our financial results are prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and are unaudited.

  • Strong safety performance in 2020, fatality-free for a second year in a row, with the all injury frequency rate improving to 0.37. However, fatigue and other pressures from COVID-19 have heightened the safety risk in day-to-day operations and we recognise that there is no room for complacency.
  • We are working to restore trust with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people following the Juukan Gorge events. Progress has been made as set out in the joint statement issued in December following a meeting between the PKKP and Rio Tinto boards, but we do not underestimate the time and effort it will take for us to help restore trust and rebuild our reputation.
  • 2020 was a significant year for our climate strategy with the introduction of new Scope 1 and 2 targets: today, we have set new Scope 3 emissions goals and the Board intends to put the company’s annual TCFD-aligned reporting (Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) to an advisory vote at our 2022 Annual General Meetings.
  • $15.9 billion net cash generated from operating activities was 6% higher than 2019 primarily driven by higher iron ore prices and stability in operating performance. These flowed through to 3% higher free cash flow 2 of $9.4 billion, which was net of a $0.7 billion increase in capital expenditure 1 to $6.2 billion.
  • $23.9 billion underlying EBITDA 2 was 13% above 2019, with an underlying EBITDA margin 2 of 51%.
  • $12.4 billion underlying earnings 2 (underlying EPS2 of US 769.6 cents) were 20% above 2019 with a 29.5% effective tax rate on underlying earnings – in line with 2019. Taking exclusions into account, net earnings of $9.8 billion were 22% higher than 2019, mainly reflecting $1.1 billion of impairments, most of which were taken in the first half of 2020 (five aluminium smelters and the Diavik diamond mine) and $1.3 billion of exchange losses. This compared with $1.7 billion of impairments in 2019 (primarily the Oyu Tolgoi underground copper/gold project and the Yarwun alumina refinery).
  • Strong balance sheet with net debt 2 of $0.7 billion, a decrease of $3.0 billion, reflected the strength of our free cash flow, partly offset by $6.3 billion of cash returns to shareholders in 2020.
  • $9.0 billion full-year dividend, equivalent to 557 US cents per share and 72% of underlying earnings, includes $5.0 billion record final ordinary dividend (309 US cents per share) and $1.5 billion special dividend (93 US cents per share) declared today.

The 2020 full year results release is available here

Footnotes

1 – Capital expenditure is presented gross, before taking into account any cash received from disposals of property, plant and equipment (PP&E).

2 – This financial performance indicator is a non-GAAP alternative performance measure (“APM”). It is used internally by management to assess the performance of the business and is therefore considered relevant to readers of this document. It is presented here to give more clarity around the underlying business performance of the Group’s operations.

This announcement is authorised for release to the market by Rio Tinto’s Group Company Secretary.

LEI: 213800YOEO5OQ72G2R82

Classification: 3.1 Additional regulated information required to be disclosed under the laws of a Member State

media.enquiries@riotinto.com
riotinto.com

Media Relations, United Kingdom
Illtud Harri
M +44 7920 503 600

David Outhwaite
T +44 20 7781 1623
M +44 7787 597 493

Media Relations, Americas
Matthew Klar
T +1 514 608 4429

Media Relations, Asia
Grant Donald
T +65 6679 9290
M +65 9722 6028

Media Relations, Australia
Jonathan Rose
T +61 3 9283 3088
M +61 447 028 913

Matt Chambers
T +61 3 9283 3087
M +61 433 525 739

Investor Relations, United Kingdom
Menno Sanderse
T: +44 20 7781 1517
M: +44 7825 195 178

David Ovington
T +44 20 7781 2051
M +44 7920 010 978

Clare Peever
M: +44 7788 967 87

Investor Relations, Australia
Natalie Worley
T +61 3 9283 3063
M +61 409 210 462

Amar Jambaa
T +61 3 9283 3627
M +61 4 7286 5948

Rio Tinto plc
6 St James’s Square
London SW1Y 4AD
United Kingdom
T +44 20 7781 2000
Registered in England
No. 719885

Rio Tinto Limited
Level 7, 360 Collins Street
Melbourne 3000
Australia
T +61 3 9283 3333
Registered in Australia
ABN 96 004 458 404

Category: General

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Gold isn't all that glitters in the land down under — silver in Australia is a major industry, and the country is home to both large and small players.

When it comes to precious metals, Australia has long punched above its weight — the nation was born riding the wave of a gold rush.

Gold isn't all that glitters through — Australia is also a major global producer of silver. It's among the 10 top producers, and was ranked seventh in 2020, with 1,300 tonnes coming from the many operational mines in the country. By comparison, the world's top producer, Mexico, produced 6,300 tonnes that same year.

Other key players in the silver market are Peru, China and Russia, which produce more silver than Australia, and the US, Argentina and Bolivia, which produce less.


Australia is sitting on quite a lot of the precious metal, with the world's second largest reserves, behind only Peru.

According to Geoscience Australia, one of the country's first mines was a silver-lead mine near Adelaide. Since then, the entire continent has been combed over with a fine-toothed comb, with deposits identified in every state and territory and active mines in every jurisdiction but one (Victoria).

Overall, Australia is well explored when it comes to silver, and since the mid-1800s it's had a constant stream of silver production. Aside from that, the country boasts metals-processing facilities in South Australia that separate the precious metal from its commonly mined counterpart metals, lead and zinc.

Silver companies in Australia

Those looking at the Australian silver market have options. There are plenty of big players with interests in Australian silver, and many smaller players for investors to consider researching too.

Most silver comes from mines dedicated to other metals — Glencore's (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF) Mount Isa in Queensland produces mainly copper, zinc and lead, but silver is separated by the company's integrated processing streams. Glencore also operates the McArthur mine in the Northern Territory, which is primarily zinc, but between its copper and zinc assets, Glencore produced 7,404,000 ounces of silver in Australia in 2020 — over 200 tonnes.

Elsewhere, BHP (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BLT) produces a lot of silver as well at the Olympic Dam operation in South Australia. Perhaps best known for the production of uranium and copper, it also yields significant silver resources to the tune of 984,000 ounces in 2020 (or almost 28 tonnes).

According to Geoscience Australia data from 2016, over 20 mines in Australia produced silver in that year, while there are dozens of other resources identified in each state.

A primary producer of silver is the Cannington mine in Queensland, where South32 (ASX:S32,OTC Pink:SHTLF), a company that was spun off from BHP in 2015, mines silver and lead. Cannington is a big one, producing 11,792,000 ounces in 2020, or 334 tonnes of silver.

Tasmania boasts the Rosebery mine, which has seen 85 years of continuous operations and is currently owned by MMG (ASX:MMG,HKEX:1208). Rosebery, like all the others here, is polymetallic, and besides silver also produces copper, zinc, lead and gold. MMG also has the Dugald River mine in Queensland which also produced silver.

Getting into smaller companies, there are those like New Century Resources (ASX:NCZ) which restarted the Century mine in the Northern Territory for zinc and silver.

The future of silver in Australia

So, you get the picture — there's a lot of silver to be mined in Australia by way of mining everything else.

It's worth noting that because silver operates both as a precious and an industrial metal, and is mined most often alongside base metals, it can be pulled in many directions. However, it traditionally follows (and lags behind) its precious metal sibling, gold, making it a valuable investment commodity to keep an eye on.

Looking forward, the future of the commodity in the land down under — especially given Australia's significant reserves and operator diversity — is as bright as you'd like it, and depends on what investors are most interested in, given the by-product nature of the metal.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Scott Tibballs, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Australia took a stand against Facebook and Google earlier this year, and the move could have long-term implications for tech investors.

It was a ban that sent Australians wild and had the whole world watching.

Back in February, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) stopped users in Australia from posting news in a week-long blackout, reacting to proposed legislation that would have forced the social media behemoth to pay publishers for content.

What prompted Facebook to "friend" Australia again, and what are the potential long-term implications of the squabble? Read on to learn what tech-focused investors in Australia should know about the situation.


Australia squares off against Facebook

On February 25 of this year, Australia's federal government passed the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code. It was developed after extensive analysis by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and is aimed at ensuring that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for their content.

It stipulates that digital platforms such as Facebook and Google (both named in the documentation) must pay news outlets whose content they feature — for example, if content is shared on Facebook or shows up in Google search results. The idea is that this will help to sustain journalism in Australia.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Google didn't react well to the code, which was first introduced in 2020.

Google didn't make any moves after it passed, but Facebook quickly made it impossible for Australian users to share news content, and pages for both local and international news organisations went blank — a major concern given the COVID-19 and wildfire concerns that were circulating at the time.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was scathing about Facebook's decision — which he ironically shared in a Facebook post — declaring the tech giant's actions "as arrogant as they were disappointing." He added, "These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them."

Despite strong feelings from both Australia and Facebook, the dispute was resolved fairly quickly, with the country agreeing to make four amendments to the legislation and Facebook restoring Australian's access to news.

Implications for Big Tech and news organisations

Both Australia and Facebook have claimed victory in the dispute, with a Facebook representative saying the company will be able to decide if news appears on the platform — meaning it won't automatically have to negotiate with any news businesses. Changes were also made to the arbitration process.

Tech experts have pointed out that larger news companies may ultimately benefit from the changes, but smaller ones could be pushed to the side. Major publishers that have struck agreements with tech giants, such as News Corp, Nine Entertainment (ASX:NEC,OTC Pink:NNMTF), Seven West Media (ASX:SWM) and Guardian Australia, may be able to increase their market share while smaller independent players lose out.

A business that is in full support of the laws is Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). During the conflict, President Brad Smith came out loudly in favour of Australia's law, and advised that his company is willing to step up with search engine Bing should Google and/or Facebook pull out of the Australian market.

"In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pushed forward with legislation two years in the making to redress the competitive imbalance between the tech sector and an independent press. The ideas are straightforward. Dominant tech properties like Facebook and Google will need to invest in transparency, including by explaining how they display news content," he said in a blog post.

"The United States should not object to a creative Australian proposal that strengthens democracy by requiring tech companies to support a free press. It should copy it instead."

Global reach and tech investor impact

Six months down the road from Australia's landmark legislation, it's tough to say what the long-term impact may be.

That said, market watchers do believe the country is part of a new precedent of forcing Big Tech into paying for journalism — something giants Facebook and Google are not used to.

Countries looking to pursue similar legislation include Canada, where Facebook agreed in May to pay 14 publishers to link to their articles on its COVID-19 and climate science pages, as well as other unspecified use cases. Canada is pursuing other avenues too. Meanwhile, in France, Google said it will pay publishers for news content after the country took up new EU copyright laws that make digital platforms liable for infringements.

For investors, the takeaway is perhaps that while companies like Facebook and Google may seem too big too fail, they too can fall subject to new regulations that can change how they do business. As nations around the world look to take back control from these mega companies, it's important to be aware of possible effects on their bottom lines.

Don't forget to follow @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Ronelle Richards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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