Observers say such a move would be a surprise, given Rio Tinto has strived to reduce debt associated with its takeover of Alcan in 2007 for $US38.1bn.

Net debt now stands at $US4.3 billion, down from $US18.9 billion previously.

Mr Albanese also said Rio Tinto continued to consider small to medium acquisition opportunities, but was focused on expanding its existing business.

Chairman Jan du Plessis said the company was not avoiding large takeovers or asset purchases because of a lack of confidence in global markets.

Rather, the company was cognisant of market volatility and did not want to overstretch itself in case of major economic turmoil.