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Rio Tinto has signaled that it is expected to grow in iron ore exports in 2021, but says it still does not know if an improved focus on cultural heritage will affect its export rate in the future.

Rio has announced that it will ship between 325 million and 340 million tons of iron ore this year amid particularly high prices for the steel production component.

The Hamerson Iron Mines site in Pilbera. Provided

The range of guidelines extends to 330.6 million tonnes of ministers shipped from Western Australia last year, but suggests there is more room for growth than a reduction in output.

Consensus analysts had expected Rio to ship 336 million tonnes by 2021.

Rio has shipped 88.9 million tonnes of iron ore from Western Australia in the last three months of 2020, with a result that was slightly better than expected. It produced 86 million tons in the quarter, an increase of 3 percent over the previous year.

The result means that its ministers have achieved the export target it set in early 2020.

This target was replaced after the cyclones hit Pilbara in February 2020, but Rio recovered and only crept to the lower end of the original training range.

Iron ore prices remain particularly high amid strong Chinese demand and weak output from Brazilian miners, with the price recorded on Monday evening at $ 174.07 per tonne.

Data from China suggest that demand from the Asian superpower may have been a greater factor in strong prices than Brazil’s weakness.

China’s iron ore imports rose 9 percent in 2020, reaching a peak of 1,170 million tons. The additional 101 million tonnes imported by China last year could overshadow Brazil’s reduction in iron ore exports by 2020.

Brazilian miner Weil will report sales and shipments information later this month, but his sales are expected to be less than one hundred million tons below his peak effort in 2018, when he sold 365.5 million tons of iron ore products.

UBS analysts said there was no sign of a slowdown in iron ore prices in the immediate future, with demand for steel strong, Chinese steel exports resuming and the risk of further disruption of supply in Brazil following a large iron ore port fire.

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