UPDATE 1-Rio Tinto blames Australia mine job cuts on weak coal prices
* Clermont mine produced 1.82 mln tonnes in H1
* Mine shares 770 workers with nearby Blair Athol mine
* Rio Tinto shares up 1.1 pct, lagging broader market
MELBOURNE, July 19 (Reuters) - Global miner Rio Tinto said on Thursday it was cutting an unspecified number of jobs at its Clermont coal mine in Australia as it battles sliding thermal coal prices.
Rio is the latest firm to target coal mining jobs as Australia's miners face a squeeze from rising wage, equipment and fuel bills, new taxes, growing coal exports from the United States, and softer demand in China, which has sent thermal coal prices down nearly 25 percent this year.
"Rio Tinto is looking at ways to reduce costs at Clermont Mine to improve its competitiveness in an environment of significantly lower thermal coal prices," a Rio Tinto spokesman said in an email to Reuters.
Rio Tinto did not say how many jobs or how much in costs it was looking to cut. Clermont shares 770 jobs with the nearby Blair Athol mine, which is due to close soon.
"A review is underway and although the details are to be worked out, it will unfortunately mean redundancies will be required," the spokesman said.
Clermont produced 3 million tonnes of coal in the six months to June, down from 3.2 million tonnes a year earlier, with Rio's share making up half of that, according to Rio Tinto's quarterly production report released this week.
Its partners are Mitsubishi, J-Power and Japan Coal Development Australia.
Rio Tinto's shares rose 1.1 percent on Thursday, lagging a 2 percent rise in the broader market.
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