Rio Tinto has announced that the company’s iron ore production and shipments in the first half of 2015 have increased from 2014.

The increase comes despite severe and unseasonal weather in the Pilbara region throughout the period.

Compared with the second quarter of 2014, production of iron ore during this quarter was 9% higher and was 7% above the first quarter of 2015.

After completing the key elements of the Pilbara 360 Mt/a infrastructure expansion, the company will now focus on generating maximum value from the assets.

During the quarter, Canada’s modernised Kitimat aluminium smelter poured first hot metal, the company said.

In its second quarter results, the company said it is increasing production to reach production capacity of 420,000t by early 2016.

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"We have maintained our emphasis on efficiency and protecting returns, which is reflected in this solid production performance."

In May, Rio Tinto signed the Oyu Tolgoi underground mine development and financing plan (UDP), which represents a significant step forward for the project.

For this project, the company still needs to secure approval of the underground feasibility study and project financing, as well as obtain necessary permits.

Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh said: "We have maintained our emphasis on efficiency and protecting returns, which is reflected in this solid production performance. We have also delivered three significant achievements within our growth portfolio.

"In aluminium, our Kitimat smelter is now producing metal from its expanded facilities, bringing 80% of our smelting capacity into the first cost quartile.

"In iron ore, we have completed the key elements of our Pilbara infrastructure expansion."

Image: Oyu Tolgoi underground mine. Photo: Copyright © 2014 Rio Tinto.