Weak metals prices drag Rio Tinto H1 underlying earnings down 43 pct

Amy Coopes | AFP | Getty Images

Weak metals prices drove global miner Rio Tinto's first-half underlying earnings down 43 percent to $2.9 billion versus the same period last year,

Chief executive Sam Walsh called the result "robust" given the tough operating environment the company faced over the period.

The Anglo Australian's iron ore division, the world's second largest, saw underlying earnings fall 55 percent to $2.099 billion year-on-year.

First-half iron ore sales of 146.5 million tonnes reported by the company on July 16 were 8 percent higher than the first six months of 2014.

Spot iron ore prices hit a record low of $44.10 a tonne in early July after plunging through the first half of the year. Even with a modest recovery to $56.40 a tonne, they are still down more than 22 percent this year.

Overall underlying earnings for the first half were in line with most analysts' forecasts.

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