Mining at Rio Tinto s Brockman 4 project in the Pilbara. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian.
Mining at Rio Tinto's Brockman 4 project in the Pilbara. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian.

UPDATE 2.20pm: Rio Tinto is celebrating reaching its goal of moving 290 million tonnes of iron ore a year from its Pilbara operations two month ahead of schedule.

And now the mining giant will turn its efforts to lifting output further to 360mtpa.

"Early completion of the expansion has added significant value to the Pilbara operations, with continued ramp-up of the system contributing to the record first quarter production achieved this year," the mining giant said in a statement.

Rio said the achievement followed the completion of the infrastructure component of its massive upgrade in September last year, which itself was delivered four months ahead of schedule and $400 million under budget.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Andrew Harding said the achievement would add real value to the business and its shareholders by moving more iron ore through the Pilbara at low cost.

"We are now focused on the next phase of our expansion towards 360 million tonnes per annum," he said.

"The infrastructure is on schedule for completion in a little over 12 months and, from a base run rate of 290mtpa, we have a rapid, low-cost pathway to increase mine production capacity by more than 60mtpa between now and 2017."

However Rio Tinto warned of some short-term run rate variability in coming months as the company completed its 360mtpa expansion and realised the integration of AutoHaul, the world's first automated heavy-haul rail system.

Rio shares closed down seven cents at $62.78 after making solid gains yesterday.

The West Australian

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