Diversified mining giant Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) has raised iron ore output 5% year-on-year in the third quarter on the back of record production levels in Western Australia's Pilbara.
According to the company's latest quarterly operations report Rio Tinto is maintaining a production target of 250 million tonnes this year following the output increase.
Most of the iron ore output came from Rio's mines in Western Australia's mineral rich Pilbara region, which posted a quarterly production record to push Q3 output to 67 million tonnes and output for the nine months through September to 177.1 million tonnes.
The Australian reports that the company is now forging ahead with plans to raise production capacity in the Pilbara from 230 million tonnes at present to 283 million tonnes by the end of 2013 and 353 million tonnes by the middle of 2015.
The vigorous output gains and ambitious expansion plans stand in stark contrast to the general state of the Australian resources sector, which is pursuing a raft of retrenchments and cost-cuttings in the face of heavily adverse conditions.
Operating costs have risen, the Australian dollar is riding high due to its new status as a safe-haven purchase, while tepid demand from a slowing Chinese economy has triggered precipitous declines in commodities spot prices.
Rio has nonetheless expressed optimism with respect to iron ore, believing that the recent price rebound and the widespread exit of Chinese suppliers from production bodes well for the near future.