World No. 2 iron ore miner Rio Tinto Ltd/Plc (RIO.AX)(RIO.L) is restarting its iron ore mines in western Australia after a two-week closure to cut production by about 10 percent due to lower demand from steel mills in China.

Workers on Monday began returning to each of Rio's 11 mines as well as its rail network spanning hundreds of kilometres across the Pilbara region, a spokesman said.

The shutdown from Dec. 22 meant iron ore production from the Pilbara mines would be between 170 and 175 million tonnes in 2008, compared with about 190 million tonnes planned before the cuts were announced in early November.

Shipments of iron ore to Asian customers continued from stockpiles at port loading facilities throughout the mine and rail shutdown, the spokesman said.

He declined to forecast output from the western Australian mines for 2009 though Rio Tinto Chief Executive Tom Albanese said on Nov. 10 that the slowdown in demand for iron ore from China, that hit in the fourth quarter of 2008, was expected to be short and sharp.

Another Pilbara miner, BHP Billiton Ltd/Plc (BHP.AX)(BLT.L), vowed last month to maintain production, saying sales for now were holding up during the global downturn. (Editing by James Thornhill)

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