The Rio Tinto share price just hit a new 52-week high! Here's why

Rio shares are on fire this Wednesday.

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A smiling miner wearing a high vis vest and yellow hardhat and working for Superior Resources does the thumbs up in front of an open pit copper mine, indicating positive news for the company's share price today following a significant copper discovery

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It's been a fantastic day of trading for the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) so far this Wednesday. At the time of writing, the ASX 200 has gained a healthy 0.81%, putting the index at close to 7,540 points. But it's been an even better day for the Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX: RIO) share price. 

Rio shares are having a cracking day today. The ASX 200 mining giant has put on a very pleasing 1.41% at present to $128.60 a share. Earlier this morning, it was even better for the Rio share price.

Soon after market open, the miner climbed as high as $128.78 a share. That's a new 52-week high for Rio Tinto. It's also the highest the miner has been at since July 2021, when the miner cracked $130 a share:

Rio shares have been on a pretty extraordinary run of late. It was only back in October last year that the miner was plumbing 52-week lows of under $88 a share. Yes, in just over three months, the Rio share price has rocketed more than 44%.

So what's behind this dramatic rise back to a new 52-week high for Rio?

Why is the Rio Tinto share price at a new 52-week high?

Well, it could be a number of factors leading investors into this mining stock of late.

The first is the iron ore price. Rio is a diversified miner, but its primary breadwinner is still iron ore. Thus, investors know that Rio's profitability is going to soar if iron ore prices take off.

Which they have been. Back in October and November last year, iron ore was trading at under US$85 per tonne. But over the past three months or so, the base metal has risen markedly. Today, iron ore is back up to almost US$128 per tonne. This was always bound to raise demand for Rio shares.

But perhaps investors are also buoyed by Rio's continuing expansion into copper.

As my Fool colleague Brooke covered yesterday, one of Rio's venture companies Nuton has made a US$15 million investment in the Canadian copper explorer Regulus Resources. Rio now owns a 16.1% stake in Regulus, which it hopes to use to further develop its flagship AntaKori copper-gold-silver project in Peru.

Copper has been at the centre of much investor discussion over the past year or two as investors eye increasing demand for the red metal. Copper is heavily used in next-generation technologies like electric vehicles and battery storage. As such, it's not hard to see why investors might take this announcement by Rio as a positive.

So it might be a combination of these factors that have pushed the Rio share price to a new 52-week high this Wednesday. No doubt investors will be delighted.

Motley Fool contributor Sebastian Bowen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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