Australian miners shoveled record tonnages of iron ore in the December quarter, supported by billions of dollars worth of expansion plans coming on stream and despite signs of weakening demand from top consumer China.
Iron ore continues to generate big returns even as prices fall, and miners in Australia - the world's biggest supplier - are counting on economies of scale to maintain profits for the steel making material.
Production data from Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group will be released over the next two weeks, but port data already shows record tonnages were shipped in the last quarter even as Chinese demand lost steam.
(Read more: End of boom? Not for Australia's iron ore miners)
Chinese iron ore purchases fell 5.6 percent to 73.4 million tonnes in December, down from a record 77.8 million in November and ore prices have dipped to a six-month low.
And weaker steel prices have prompted some mills to reduce production, putting China's average daily crude steel output at 1.961 million tonnes in late December, the first time the pace fell below 2 million tonnes since last February.