Global mining giant BHP Billiton on Wednesday said it expects record iron ore production in fiscal 2012 after first-half output rose by 23 percent. The world\'s largest miner said iron ore production for the six months to December 31 was 80.6 million tonnes, up 23 percent on the previous corresponding period. In the three months to the end of December, BHP produced 41.1 million tonnes of iron ore, an increase of four percent from the September quarter. BHP is investing billions of dollars in beefing up mining capacity of the steelmaking commodity in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, betting heavily on continued demand from China and elsewhere. The company said consistently strong operating performance, dual tracking of its rail infrastructure and additional ship loading capacity at Port Hedland all contributed to the record performance. \"Full-year iron ore production is forecast to marginally exceed BHP\'s prior guidance of 159 million tonnes,\" it added. The upbeat report followed fellow miner Rio Tinto on Tuesday posting record iron ore production in the fourth quarter of 2011. Rio said iron ore production notched a new record of 65 million tonnes in the quarter and 245 million tonnes for the year. However, BHP said copper production in the six months to December was down 16 percent from the same period the previous year. Base metals production in the December quarter was higher than the September quarter, but for the half-year most base metal production was down. But petroleum production continued to advance strongly, rising 36 percent in the half-year, while alumina and aluminium production in the six months to December was relatively flat.