SYDNEY, AAP – Mining giant Rio Tinto has forecast greater iron ore exports in 2022 but is assuming the worst of the pandemic is over for its workforce.

The company on Tuesday tipped exports of the steel-making commodity would increase from 322 million tonnes in 2021 to a range of 320 million tonnes to 335 million tonnes this year.

Iron ore makes up about 80 per cent of earnings due to strong demand from China.

The 2022 forecast is based on there being no more highly contagious coronavirus variants which could make many workers sick or have to isolate due to health orders.

Rio Tinto is based in Western Australia, which has had some of the most onerous restrictions on movement during the pandemic.

The forecast is contained in a fourth-quarter report, which shows production and exports of iron ore were down on the same period last year.

The company also produces aluminium, copper, diamonds and minerals although these are worth much less to the business.

Rio Tinto shares on the ASX were up 0.34 per cent to $110.40 at 1146 AEDT.