PERTH, May 7 (Reuters) - Rio Tinto said on Thursday it still sees Chinese steel demand growing and peaking at close to 1 billion tonnes over the long term, in contrast to some forecasters who have said steel demand has already peaked in China.
"We continue to believe that the long run peak steel demand of China has a long way to go to approximately the billion number that you indicate," Chairman Jan du Plessis said in response to a question at the group's Australian annual meeting.
"It's a serious conclusion we came to after long debate."
A recent media report quoted economists and others saying that Rio Tinto's and BHP Billiton's long-held forecast that Chinese steel demand would peak at 1 billion tonnes around 2025 was outdated and they had stood by it so as not to lose face.
Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Michael Perry