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Rio Tinto Announces Record Production in 2007

Mining giant Rio Tinto reported record annual output for key commodities Wednesday and said it expects growth to continue through 2008 on strong demand from developing countries like China and India.

The London-based miner, which is also listed in Australia, said production of iron ore, bauxite, alumina, aluminum, refined gold and refined copper reached record highs in the calendar year ending Dec. 31, 2007.

"Rio Tinto has pulled out all the stops to boost production in 2007," Chief Executive Tom Albanese said in a statement accompanying the company's fourth quarter production report.

"Against a background of record prices for many of our commodities and with a strong outlook for the demand for our products in the developing markets, we look forward with confidence."

Rio Tinto said its full year iron ore production for 2007 rose 9 percent from the previous year to a record 144.7 million metric tons (159.5 million tons).

The miner's iron ore production in the fourth quarter was 38.96 million tons, up 11 percent from a year ago, the company said. The growth followed the rapid expansion of Rio Tinto's iron ore operations in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia state, with output at its Hamersley mines up 17 percent from the fourth quarter of 2006.

Tight Iron Ore Market

Rio Tinto said the iron ore market was as tight as it had ever experienced.

"Investment to expand capacity in recent years is paying off with record volume growth in many commodities," Albanese said. "We are driving the business at record pace, as these strong numbers clearly show."

Mined copper output for the quarter was down 14 percent from a year earlier to 180,800 metric tons (199,298 tons), while refined copper climbed 65 percent in the quarter to 89,000 metric tons (98,105 tons).

Aluminum production for the quarter climbed 287 percent to 835,400 tons and alumina output rose 133 percent to 1.85 million tons, thanks largely to Rio Tinto's $38.1 billion (25.6 billion euros) acquisition of Canada's Alcan last year.

Rio Tinto's shares were down 3 percent at A$122.96 in late afternoon trade in Sydney, in line with the overall market.

Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index has dropped 2.5 percent Wednesday on growing fears about the possibility of the U.S. falling into a recession this year.