Global miner Rio Tinto (RIO.L) (RIO.AX) is to nearly triple its capital spending to $11 billion next year from about $4 billion in 2010, it said on Friday, as it seeks to boost iron ore output by more than 50 percent over five years.

A major focus for Rio is expanding its iron ore division, the group's most profitable, to help meet China's heavy appetite for the raw material to make steel amid buoyant prices. "We believe the first and best use of our strong cashflows and robust balance sheet is to invest in the excellent range of value-adding growth projects across Rio Tinto's product portfolio," Chief Executive Tom Albanese said in a statement ahead of giving a presentation to investors.

Rio, the world's second-biggest iron ore producer, posted a record first-half profit in August and about 70 percent came from iron ore sales.

On Oct. 18 Rio and BHP Billiton (BLT.L) (BHP.AX) scrapped plans to form the world's biggest iron ore joint venture after regulators opposed the plan.

Rio warned on Friday that weak copper output would continue into next year before recovering in 2012.

Copper output would fall 18 percent to 661,000 tonnes this year. "The effect of lower grades will continue in 2011 but rebound in 2012," it said.

In the third quarter Rio produced a record amount of iron ore, but copper output fell 19 percent.


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