Mining group Anglo American Plc posted a 22 percent rise in first quarter iron ore output on Thursday while copper production declined by 5.4 percent.

Anglo, the world's fourth biggest diversified mining group by market value, said refined platinum output fell 5.8 percent and thermal coal production lost 0.8 percent.

Iron ore is part of Anglo's Ferrous Metals division, which accounted for 27 percent of 2008 operating profit while Base Metals, which includes copper, made up 24 percent.

The firm -- the world's dominant platinum producer and fourth-largest iron ore exporter -- said it had strengthened its balance sheet after issuing $3.7 billion in bonds and had undrawn bank facilities and cash of over $9 billion.

On Feb. 20, Anglo scrapped its 2008 final dividend to conserve cash and said it would cut 19,000 jobs as it posted a weaker-than-expected 1 percent fall in annual profit.

The group, which has raised a further $1.7 billion from selling its remaining stake in AngloGold Ashanti , had $11 billion in net debt at the end of last year, representing a gearing level of 38 percent.

(Reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by Hans Peters)

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