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Rio Tinto announces record iron ore production

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Rio Tinto has posted a record year for iron ore production with the miner beating its 2012 benchmark by five per cent.

The company mined 66.5 million tonnes of iron ore in the December quarter; up three per cent from the previous quarter and five per cent on 2012.

In total Rio produced 266 million tonnes and shipped 259 million tonnes of the steelmaking commodity, with 208.97 million tonnes of this coming from its West Australian mines.

While it also produced 172,000 tonnes of copper for the quarter, taking its full-year production to 631,500 tonnes, well above its guidance of 590,000 tonnes.

"These are excellent fourth-quarter operational results, demonstrating continued delivery on our commitments," Rio chief Sam Walsh said.

"We have set new records for iron ore production and shipments as we ramp up to our 290 (million tonnes per year in WA) expansion, as well as achieving an impressive recovery in copper volumes and record annual production from both bauxite and thermal coal."

Walsh said the company had beat its cost-cutting targets for the year after announcing plans to shed $US2 billion target for 2013.

It had also sold $2.5 billion worth of assets after earlier outlining $3.5 billion in assets sales.

"These actions, together with lower capital expenditure in 2013 and beyond, will ensure that Rio Tinto is well positioned to deliver greater value to shareholders,'' Walsh said.

The company said it planned to produce 330 million tonnes of iron ore from the Pilbara in 2015 as it spends $400 million to expand its potential in the region.

In early December Walsh said iron ore demand will remain strong on the back of Chinese growth, urbanisation and supply constraints, with predictions the Asian power-house will require one billion tonnes by 2030.

The continuing strength of the steelmaking ingredient comes as the slowing demand from China usually seen at this time of the year has failed to materialise, with the price remaining between $US130 and $US140 per tonne in recent months.

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