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CESCO:Rio Tinto Copper Unit CEO:China Growth To Hold At Current Rate

04/17/2012 | 10:26am US/Eastern

Slowing growth in China and Europe's debt crisis won't derail the long-term outlook for the copper industry, which should continue to benefit from robust demand for the metal and challenges in bringing new supply online, the chief executive of Rio Tinto PLC's (RIO, RIO.LN) copper unit said on Tuesday.

"While in the short term we will see continued volatility, the long-term copper demand picture has not changed," Andrew Harding said at the CESCO copper industry conference here. Harding said continued industrialization in China and other emerging markets would underpin demand for the industrial metal.

"I am confident that growth in China will stay at the levels we're currently seeing," Harding said. He added, however, that growth would likely remain at a slower pace than the double-digit expansion in gross domestic product seen during parts of the last decade.

China is the world's top copper consumer, accounting for about 40% of global use of the metal. Copper is widely used in electricity and construction, and has been a key ingredient in China's rapid industrialization.

Copper supply, Harding said, would continue to be limited as years of mining have depleted the better part of many copper deposits.

-By Matt Day, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-4986, matt.day@dowjones.com

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