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Rio Tinto in the Pilbara. Credits: Csfoto – Christian Sprogoe (photographer)

Rio Tinto is anticipating another strong year for iron ore in 2021 due to sustained demand from steel producers.

According to Rio Tinto’s annual report for 2020, steel producers will ramp up their production off the back of global supply constraints, cementing demand for Rio Tinto’s iron ore.

Rio Tinto produced 333.4 million tonnes of iron ore products in 2020, compared with 326.7 million tonnes in 2019.

Shipments were also up from 37.4 million tonnes in 2019 to 330.6 million tonnes in 2020.

The company generated $US27.5 billion ($35 billion) in gross iron ore product sales in 2020, up from $24.1 billion in 2019.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm said the company’s strong response to COVID-19 had steered it into a healthy position.

“I am exceptionally proud of the way we responded, as one, to the global COVID-19 pandemic: our goal was to keep our employees, contractors and communities safe and healthy while keeping our operations running and continuing to deliver the products our customers need,” he said.

Stausholm said that sustainability across its business was a “sharp focus” in the years ahead.

After last year’s Juukan Gorge disaster, Rio Tinto has committed itself to earn the trust of Traditional Owners.

The company is also planning to tackle climate change after setting scope three emissions reduction goals this year.

“We consider climate change the key challenge of our generation, and have pledged to address our own emissions, and those of our value chain,” Stausholm said.

“…We will work with customers on steel decarbonisation pathways and invest in technologies that could deliver at least a 30 per cent reduction in steelmaking carbon intensity from 2030.”

Rio Tinto operates 16 iron ore mines in Western Australia and employs 13,600 people across its Pilbara operations.