Rio Tinto Pilbara expansion up and running

Rio Tinto loaded the first iron ore shipment from the company's expanded operations in Pilbara, Western Australia on Monday.

The port, rail and mine expansions are expected to eventually facilitate an increase to 290 million tonnes of annual output.

Rio Tinto poured US$3.4 billion into the Pilbara expansions in 2012 alone. The rail network is the largest privately owned and operated rail system in Australia, servicing 14 mines via mainline systems of approximately 1,400 kilometres, according to the company's website.

Representatives from Rio remained confident that while steel stocks dropped almost 10% in July, improved steel prices in China will continue to support iron ore prices, the Trading Room reported Monday.

The company returned to profitability in the first half of 2013, attributable to aggressive cost cutting that has swept through the mining industry.

In August, Rio laid off about 2,000 workers at its $6.6 billion Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia and nearly 200 were laid off at the company's uranium mine in Namibia in March.

Back in February, CEO Sam Walsh vowed a “relentless” focus on shareholder value and more discipline and accountability, adding the company plans to cut costs by over $5 billion by the end of 2014.