(MENAFN - AFP) Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto on Tuesday lifted the planned capacity for its iron ore operations in a remote region of Australia, as it announced record production in 2012.
As commodity prices have rebounded from steep falls in 2012, driven by renewed Chinese demand, Rio said it aimed to expand output in the resource-rich Pilbara region to 360 million tonnes per year by mid-2015.
Previous projections had been for 353 million tonnes within this timeframe.
In its fourth quarter operations review, the miner said iron ore production for the full year was a record 253 million tonnes, four percent higher than 2011.
The Pilbara operations in northern Western Australia state achieved record annual production of 239 million tonnes in 2012, also four percent higher than the previous year, it said.
Record global iron ore shipments of 247 million tonnes were also achieved in 2012 despite severe weather disruptions and a significant maintenance shut-down during the year, it added.
"We achieved record annual iron ore production and shipments as our expansion programme continues on schedule," chief executive Tom Albanese said.
"Markets remain volatile, but our business continues to perform well," Albanese said.
"Across the group we are taking action to roll back unsustainable cost increases. This further enhances our resilience and competitive edge as we enter 2013."
Production was also higher for copper, bauxite, alumina and thermal coal.
Rio's Australian shares closed down nine cents at Aus65.90.