Rio Tinto’s Pilbara integrated iron ore mine in Australia has reached a run rate of 290Mt/yr – two months ahead of schedule.

“Early completion of the expansion has added significant value to the Pilbara operations, with continued ramp-up of the system contributing to the record first quarter production achieved this year,” the mining giant claims, adding that the achievement ‘underlines the world-class status of Rio Tinto’s Western Australian iron ore operations’.

Rio Tinto completed its infrastructure modernization at Pilbara last September (2013) four months ahead of schedule and $400m under budget.

For Andrew Harding, Rio Tinto’s iron ore CEO, this is a significant milestone that adds real value to the business as it means that more iron ore can be moved through the Pilbara at low cost. “It builds on an impressive track record of delivery, achieved through our culture of driving performance and the quality of our people,” Harding said.

“We are now focused on the next phase of our expansion towards 360Mt/yr. The infrastructure is on schedule for completion in a little over 12 months and, from a base run rate of 290Mt/yr, we have a rapid, low-cost pathway to increase mine production capacity by more than 60Mt/yr between now and 2017.”

While Rio Tinto has achieved the 290Mt/yr run rate there is likely to be some run rate variability in coming months as the company completes its 360Mt/yr expansion and realises the integration of the world’s first automated heavy-haul rail system.