Rio Iron Ore Output Hits Record

Global production up 49%

Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto beat annual forecasts on Jan. 14 with a record-breaking fourth-quarter of iron ore production, boosted by strong Chinese demand.

Rio said global iron ore production was up 49% year on year at 47.2 million tons, bringing the total for 2009 to 217 million tons.

The figure is an increase of 13% on the previous year and ahead of guidance, given in October, of between 210 and 215 million tons.

Global iron ore sales set a new quarterly record of 61 million tons, with a full-year sales record also set by Rio's Pilbara operations in Western Australia.

"This was another very strong quarter for iron ore, driven by continuing high demand from China," Rio chief Tom Albanese said.

Relations with the Asian giant were strained last year following the arrest of Australian Rio executive Stern Hu and three of his Chinese colleagues on allegations of spying amid fraught iron ore negotiations. Beijing confirmed the investigation was complete and Hu's case had been handed over to prosecutors in Shanghai, with foreign ministry officials saying they were confident of a "lawful and just outcome."

Albanese said the impact of the global financial crisis on commodity prices was beginning to ease, but Rio remained wary. "We are seeing recovery across most of our key commodities, although we continue to be cautious about the state of the global economy going into 2010 as stimulus packages start to wind down," he said.

Full-year mined copper production rose 15% to 804,700 tons, ahead of guidance, while refined copper was up 15% at 412,400 tons, just shy of forecasts.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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