Mining giant Rio Tinto says its planned ramp-up of iron ore production in the Pilbara to 353 million tonnes per annum by 2015 remains on track despite "volatile markets".
Reporting another record quarterly iron ore production figure of 63 million tonnes in the three months to the end of September, Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese said the company remained resilient to fluctuating demand and prices because of it strategy of running large, long-life, cost-competitive operations
Pilbara iron ore production was up 5 per cent on the third quarter of 2011 while global iron ore production was also up 5 per cent to 67 million tonnes.
Year to date global iron ore production of 187 million tonnes was up 4 per cent on the same period of 2011.
Pilbara production for the nine months to September was 177.1 million tonnes, also 5 per cent higher than the corresponding period in 2011.
"Production continued to exceed sales as the business prepared itself for the expansion to 283mtpa (by the end of 2013), with a measured build-up of stocks at the mine sites," the company said.
"Third quarter sales of 61 million tonnes were 3 per cent higher than the third quarter of 2011, and year to date sales of 170 million tonnes were 4 per cent higher than the corresponding period in 2011."
Rio Tinto said it expected to produce about 250 million tonnes of iron ore from its global operations in Australia and Canada, subject to weather constraints.
At Argyle diamond mine, rough diamond production for the third quarter was 7 per cent higher than the previous corresponding period, as marginally lower tonnes processed were more than offset by higher grades, the miner said.
Production was 46 per cent higher than the second quarter of 2012 because of a combination of access to a high grade region of the pit and increased plant reliability.
Construction of the underground mine was proceeding and production was scheduled to begin in the first half of 2013, with ramp up to full operation by 2015.
Third quarter production of 1.8 million tonnes at Dampier Salt was 2 per cent higher than the third quarter of 2011.
Year to date production of 5.2 million tonnes was 10 per cent higher than the corresponding period in 2011, due to the impact of adverse weather during the first quarter of 2011.
Mr Albanese said copper, bauxite, alumina and titanium dioxide production were all higher than in the same quarter of 2011.
Rio shares were off 70 cents, or 1.3 per cent, to $55.12 at the close.