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Rio Tinto third-quarter iron ore shipments climb on rail haulage boost

FILE PHOTO - The Rio Tinto mining company's logo is photographed at their annual general meeting in Sydney, Australia, May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Reed

(Reuters) - Global miner Rio Tinto Ltd (RIO.AX) (RIO.L) on Tuesday said third-quarter iron ore shipments from Australia rose 6 percent from a year ago, aided by improved rail capacity.

Rio Tinto, which competes with Vale SA (VALE5.SA) and BHP Billiton Ltd (BHP.AX) in the seaborne-traded iron ore market, maintained its target to ship 330 million tonnes of the steel-making material in 2017.

Shipments from its Australian mines totaled 85.8 million tonnes in the third quarter compared with 80.9 million in the same period a year ago, Rio Tinto said. UBS had forecast third-quarter Australian shipments of 84.6 million tonnes.

“The business performed very well in the September quarter, with a strong quarterly production performance and a wave of productivity improvements embedded through our operations," Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said in a statement.

Iron ore has traded between $53 (39.95 pounds) and $95 a tonne this year and currently stands at around $63. <.IO62-CNO=MB>

Australia’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science expects iron ore prices to backtrack in the fourth quarter, leaving the full-year average at $64 a tonne.

Next year’s forecast calls for iron ore prices to drop to $50 a tonne as China’s demand for imported ore moderates, according to the department.

In other minerals, mined copper production guidance for 2017 was cut to 460,000-480,000 tonnes from 500,000-550,000 tonnes announced earlier, owing to a delayed ramp-up of an extension work at the Escondida mine in Chile, according to the company.

Rio Tinto stuck to a full-year target of producing between 3.5 million to 3.7 million tonnes of aluminium.

(Reporting by Shashwat Pradhan in Bengaluru; editing by James Regan, G Crosse and Jonathan Oatis)