Mining giant Rio Tinto will press on with planned capacity expansions after hitting record high production and shipping levels for iron ore in the fourth quarter of 2013.

In the final quarter of 2014, Rio Tinto’s iron ore output hit 55.51 million tonnes, for a year-on-year gain of seven per cent compared to the 51.97 million tonnes logged in the previous corresponding period.

For the full year of 2013, Rio saw its iron ore output rise by five per cent to 208.97 million tonnes from 198.87 million tonnes in 2012.

Rio Tinto plans to maintain this record-breaking production run, expecting per annum iron ore output to hit 290 million tonnes by the end of the first half of 2014.

“We have set new records for iron ore production and shipments as we ramp up to our 290 expansion,” said Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh.

Sam Walsh

Sam Walsh

The unprecedented output levels come after all three of Australia’s biggest iron ore miners, which include BHP Billiton and Fortescue in addition to Rio Tinto, flagged major increases to fourth quarter production just prior to the start of the period.

Walsh also pointed out that Rio achieved record breaking levels of annual production for both bauxite and thermal coal in 2013.

Rio Tinto’s full year share of production for hard coking coal logged a two per cent year-on-year increase to hit 8.21 million tonnes. Semi-soft coking coal saw a staggering 17 per cent year-on-year gain to reach 3.86 million tonnes, while thermal coal increased by 11 per cent to hit 22.98 million tonnes.

In tandem with these record-breaking production levels, Rio Tinto continues to strenuously pursue cost cutting measures.

“We have exceeded out cost cutting targets for the year and announced or completed $3.5 billion of non-core asset sales,” Walsh said. “These actions, together with lower capital expenditure in 2013 and beyond, will ensure that Rio Tinto is well positioned to deliver greater value to shareholders.”

The company said it managed to achieve more than $2 billion in operating cash cost improvements in 2013 compared to 2012, while exploration and evaluation costs also fell by more than $1 billion last year compared to the preceding year.