Rio Tinto's Australian iron ore expansion ahead of schedule

martes 13 de mayo de 2014 10:58 GYT

(adds details on expansion plans)

LONDON May 13 (Reuters) - Miner Rio Tinto said on Tuesday it has boosted its iron ore production capacity to a run rate of 290 million tonnes a year at its Australian operations, two months ahead of what it had forecast.

About 90 percent of Rio's iron ore output is mined in the Australia.

Australian miners are racing ahead with plans to expand production of iron ore, used in steelmaking, to capture more of the Chinese market. They face strong competition from the world's biggest supplier Vale of Brazil.

Rio said although it has achieved the 290 million tonnes mark there is likely to be some run rate variability in the next few months as it continues to work on further capacity expansion and while it integrates its automated heavy-haul rail system.

The company said it is now focusing on the next phase of expansion. It expects to reach production capacity of 360 million tonnes a year by 2017.

In November, Rio announced it would delay the expansion of its iron ore operations in Australia from 2015 to 2017, slowing growth and cutting costs with a revised plan which it says will save $3 billion. (Reporting by Silvia Antonioli; editing by William Hardy)