Rio Tinto has ramped up production at its West Australian iron ore sites, brining on an expansion two months ahead of schedule.
The miner announced it had reached the annual run rate milestone of 260 million tonnes from its Pilbara iron ore system of mines, rail and ports.
Rio first announced plans for the $3.1 billion expansion in 2012, with $2 billion going towards extending the life of Nammuldi iron ore mine and $1.1 billion used on works to expand the company's Cape Lambert port and rail facilities.
The company will now focus on the second phase of its expansion which will increase iron ore production to 360 million tonnes per annum by the end of 2015.
Rio iron ore boss Andrew Harding said the added capacity adds value to the business “by moving iron through the Pilbara at low cost.”
The company said there is likely to be some run rate variability in coming months as it completes the second expansion and realises the integration of its “world first” automated heavy-haul rail system.
Rio chief Sam Walsh told a mining conference in Miami the company’s use of autonomous technology was working to keep costs down.
“Autonomous haulage has meant fewer trucks are required at the new mines,” Walsh said.
“And innovative sourcing and procurement have also delivered considerable savings, with much of the construction equipment coming from emerging supplier powerhouses such as China, Indonesia and Thailand.”