Rio Tinto chief warns of more job cuts

Rio Tinto chief Sam Walsh on Sunday warned of more job cuts as the mining giant works to make US$5 billion in savings by the end of 2014, but he was upbeat about demand for iron ore from China.

The comments follow the Anglo-Australian miner posting its first annual loss in 18 years in February, plunging US$2.99 billion into the red on writedowns on its Mozambique coal and aluminium businesses and a dip in commodity prices.

Rio has already shed staff in its Sydney and Melbourne offices and last week told employees of plans to nearly halve the number of jobs in London to around 262.

"There will be reductions," Walsh, speaking ahead of Rio's annual general meeting in Sydney on Thursday, told the Financial Review Sunday television programme when asked if more jobs would be lost.

"This is not easy. This is a process that is very very tough, but we need to get on top of our costs."

But he did not give an indication of the scale.

"We don't have targets for reductions in people," he said.

"We do have targets for reductions in costs. This is a process that is very, very tough.

"But we need to get on top of our costs, we need to have a business that will be competitive, and when I look at both our energy and aluminium businesses they are going through very tough times."

Walsh, who replaced Tom Albanese as chief executive after the poor February results, has vowed "aggressive" cost-cutting to achieve savings of more than $5 billion by 2014 and reduce capital expenditure to $13 billion this year.

He has also said Rio was focused on raising funds by selling assets to maintain its single-A credit rating, currently on negative watch from Standard & Poor's.

Despite a slowdown in China and debt strains in Europe and the United States weighing on mining companies in the past 12 months, Walsh was upbeat about demand for Rio's key product iron ore.

"The world is an uncertain place," he said.

"First quarter, we saw a dip in China, (but) we've seen increased commitment to infrastructure and an easing of credit and we expect that will flow through to steel production and of course iron ore demand."

He added that as the world's lowest cost iron ore producer "we're doing OK".