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Rio Tinto lifts iron ore production


Mining giant Rio Tinto lifted global iron ore production by four per cent to a record 253 million tonnes in 2012.

The full year result was above previous guidance set by the world's second biggest iron ore producer of 250 million tonnes.

It shipped 247 million of those tonnes, also a record high amount, including 233 million tonnes out of the Pilbara in Western Australia.

The miner lifted fourth quarter iron ore production by two per cent on the same period last year to 66 million tonnes.

Rio described the shipments - or sales - result as a positive one due to severe weather disruptions and a shut-down during the year.

It was in line with analysts' expectations.

Production of the company's second biggest earner, copper, (representing about 20 per cent compared to more than 70 per cent for iron ore) increased by six per cent in 2012, to 548,800 tonnes in line with analysts' expectations.

Aluminium production slumped by 10 per cent, weighed down by the Alma labour dispute in Canada.

Rio Tinto produced 3.8 million tonnes of aluminium for the year.

It lifted production of key aluminium input bauxite by 11 per cent to 39.4 million tonnes and alumina by 12 per cent to 10 million tonnes.

Thermal coal production for the full year was 16 per cent higher than in 2011 at 20.6 million tonnes, but hard coking coal production fell by nine per cent to eight million tonnes, due to the impact of plant maintenance and a shutdown.

Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese described the result as a strong operational performance.

"Our expansion program continues on schedule, delivering industry leading returns for our shareholders," he said in a statement.

"Markets remain volatile, but our business continues to perform well.

"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."

The mining giant aims to reduce its operating and support costs by more than $US5 billion ($A4.75 billion) by the end of 2014 and will cut spending on exploration and evaluation projects by $US1 billion ($A950.53 million) over the remainder of 2012 and 2013.

Its shares were 14 cents lower at $65.85 shortly before 1600 AEDT.