Rio Tinto’s full year profits for 2009 were $6.3bn – boosted by strong iron ore production.

The Anglo-Australian miner reported that its its iron ore capacities in Pilbara, Western Australia operated above its 220Mt/y capacity in the second half of the year.

The group predicted a bright long-term future with China and India continuing to urbanise and industrialise, increasing demand for iron ore.Its focus on 2010 will be the expansion of the Pilbara operations to 330Mt/y by 2015 and its joint venture with BHP Billiton in the region, which Rio said would help save money.

Its Mesa A site came on stream in early February while Brockman 4 will resume production in Q2 2010. Total iron ore production was 172Mt – 12% higher than 2008. In the first half of the year approximately half of Rio Tinto’s iron ore production was sold on a spot market basis. In the second half, sales were primarily priced on a benchmark or its equivalent basis.

Rio Tinto’s chairman Jan du Plessis said: “Achieving underlying earnings of $6.3bn is a commendable result for the group, especially during a year of rapidly changing macro economic conditions.”