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Mining giant BHP Billiton lifted its iron ore production in the first half of the 2012/13 financial year, beating analyst expectations.

BHP produced 81.96 million tonnes of iron ore at its Western Australian operations in the six months to December 31, up two per cent on the same period in the previous year.

In the three months to December, iron ore production totalled 42.19 million tonnes, up three per cent on the previous corresponding period.

Analysts had forecast a flat result for iron ore in the three months to December.

BHP said the rise in production, plus record sales for iron ore, were a result of its spending on supply chain capacity.

The company has forecast long-term growth for its iron ore operations, and maintained its forecast of full-year production of 183 million tonnes.