UPDATE 3-Rio Tinto earnings slump to 12-year low, warns conditions still tough
* H1 underlying earnings at $1.56 bln beat consensus
* Interim dividend beats forecasts
* CEO sees volatile, challenging conditions ahead
* Share price eases (Adds more CEO comments, share price)
By Sonali Paul and Barbara Lewis
MELBOURNE/LONDON Aug 3 (Reuters) - Global miner Rio Tinto reported a 47 percent slump in first-half profit to its weakest in 12 years on Wednesday, still beating forecasts and a strong balance sheet allowed it to pay a higher dividend than expected.
It said commodity markets remained a challenge, even as the mining sector stages a recovery from the hammering inflicted by a plunge in prices for raw materials caused by a drop in Chinese demand.
The watchword is caution across the industry as markets are oversupplied and asset sales to reduce debt take longer than some investors would like.
Rio's new Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said he was focused on shoring up the company by cutting costs further and did not expect help from commodities markets that were given a provisional lift in the second quarter by easy credit in China. Continuación...