Demand for metals will double within 20 years, says Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is bullish about future prospects, as a senior executive yesterday predicted the demand for some metals would double in less than two decades.

Harry Kenyon, who heads up the blue-chip miner's diamonds and minerals business, said: "We expect consumption trends to lead to a doubling in demand for iron ore, copper and aluminium over the next 15 to 20 years." Mr Kenyon's comments to a mining industry conference came just days before Rio's full-year results, which are expected to show a bumper rise in profits last year.

Deutsche Bank analysts predict the company will more than double underlying earnings to $14bn (£9bn), driven by the growth in its iron ore business, although copper is also expected to have contributed. The red metal hit a record high of $10,160 (£6,300) per tonne on Monday over increasing expectation of supply concerns in the next few years. Yet, there were fears that the aluminium division would continue to drag on the bottom line.

Deutsche Bank also predicted that the miner would launch a 63 cent per share dividend and a share buyback in its results tomorrow.

Rio said yesterday it was investing $277m in expanding concentrate production capacity at the Iron Ore Company of Canada. Sam Walsh, the head of the group's iron ore and Australia business, said it was an important development in increasing production as global demand escalated.

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