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Records fall, ramp-up continues at Rio
The West Australian

Rio Tinto has posted record iron ore production and sales for 2012 despite volatile markets, weather disruptions and maintenance shutdowns and says its Pilbara capacity ramp-up continues apace.

Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese said commodity markets remained volatile, but the business continued to perform well.

"Across the group, we are taking action to roll back unsustainable cost increases," he said.

"This further enhances our resilience and competitive edge as we enter 2013."

The company's fourth quarter operations review noted its global and Pilbara iron ore production both up 4 per cent for the year, to 253 million tonnes (Rio's share 199 million tonnes) and 239 million tonnes (Rio Tinto share 191 million tonnes) respectively.

Fourth quarter global production of 66 million tonnes (Rio Tinto share 52 million tonnes) was 2 per cent higher than the previous corresponding period.

Rio noted the recent closure of its Pilbara ports because of Cyclone Narelle but said its mine sites and rail haulage continued to operate at full capacity throughout the shutdown.

"Full year 2012 sales of 233 million tonnes (100 per cent basis) were 3 per cent higher than 2011, and fourth quarter sales of 63 million tonnes (100 per cent basis) set a new fourth quarter record, 2 per cent higher than in 2011," the company said in a statement.

"Sales increased quarter-on-quarter throughout 2012, resulting in record annual sales volumes despite significant volatility in the marketplace."

The company said nameplate capacity in the Pilbara had risen from 225 million tonnes per annum at the start of 2012 to 237 million tonnes per annum through de-bottlenecking and productivity improvement, with minimal capital outlay.

Rio said the expansion of the Pilbara infrastructure to 290 million tonnes per annum by the end of 2013 and 360 million tonnes per annum by the first half of 2015 remained on track.

All its expansion plans were fully approved, other than shorter lead time investment in new mines.

Rio shares were off 15 cents, or 0.23 per cent, to $64.84 at 12.30pm.