StockMarketWire.com - Mining company Rio Tinto reported a 3% fall in annual iron ore production from key operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia state, owing to weather and operational challenges in the first half of 2019.

The fall in output was also related to a decision 'to protect the quality of the Pilbara blend', the company said.

Pilbara iron ore output for the year through December fell 3% to 326.7m tonnes, with output in the fourth quarter also falling 3% to 326.7m.

Rio Tinto pinned the fourth-quarter decline on 'normal maintenance cycles and mine sequencing'.

Among other key products, annual bauxite production rose 9% and titanium dioxide slag output rose 8% to 1.21m tonnes.

Mined copper production fell 5% and aluminium production fell 2%.

'We finished the year with good momentum, particularly in our Pilbara iron ore operations and in bauxite, despite having experienced some operational challenges in 2019,' chief executive J-S Jacques said.

'We are increasing our investment, with $2.25bn of high-return projects in iron ore and copper approved in the fourth quarter.'

'We also boosted our exploration and evaluation expenditure to $624m in 2019, further strengthening our pipeline of opportunities.'

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