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WA ore lifts Rio profit

GLOBAL mining giant Rio Tinto tripled the profit from its Western Australian iron ore business last year, underpinning a strong rise in the group’s underlying net profit to $US4.9 billion ($A6.5 billion). Hamersley Iron nearly tripled its net earnings to $ US 1.2 billion, helped by an 18 per cent increase in shipments to a record 90 million tonnes.Rio’s 53 per cent-owned subsidiary Robe River also nearly tripled earnings to $US362 million. The group’s Argyle Diamond subsidiary was another strong contributor, with net earnings rising from US$40 million to $US117 million. Outside of WA, Rio enjoyed much higher profits from its coal and copper mining operations. Rio Tinto chairman Paul Skinner was understated in saying “2005 was a very good year”. He said the better profit reflected Rio’s high-quality assets, its investments in increased production, a strong operational performance and high demand in most markets. This had translated to big increases in commodity prices, especially for iron ore and coal. Chief executive Leigh Clifford said construction of the first phase of the major port and rail infrastructure expansion in the Pilbara was completed on-time and on-budget in 2005.

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