Strong demand from China helped Rio Tinto's iron ore production soar 39% in the first three months of the year, the mining giant said on April 15.
The Anglo-Australian company produced 43.4 million tons of steel's raw ingredient, a sharp rise from the three months to March 2009 when the world was in the grip of the financial crisis.
Chief executive Tom Albanese said most of Rio's operations including iron ore were running at "full capacity" as demand recovers, particularly in Asia and key market China. "Chinese demand grew strongly and we saw some recovery in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) markets, but we are still cautious about short-term volatility," he said.
However, Albanese added that the future was still bright for the company, which in February predicted decades of Asian-led expansion after revealing annual profit growth of 33%.
"The long-term outlook remains very strong and we are now ramping up our growth projects with sustained investment in our iron ore business and the start of the development of Oyu Tolgoi", a copper and gold project in Mongolia.
Rio said its key Western Australia iron ore operation ran at or close to capacity, while gold, bauxite, and hard coking coal production was all up on a year earlier.
The miner recently announced a switch from annual to quarterly iron ore contacts, in line with its competitors BHP Billiton and Vale.
Four of its staff, including an Australian national, received lengthy jail terms in Shanghai last month over bribery and industrial espionage surrounding last year's annual talks with China.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010