He told an analysts’ briefing that the Bowen Basin will provide the company with quality metallurgical coal for the foreseeable future.
“It is not our policy to adjust production in order to achieve price results,” he said.
“Once we’ve installed something, we believe in the interests of productivity and stability, and our support of open markets, and to satisfy our customers that we maximise production.”
Because of the margins in coking coal and the return, BHP Billiton is unlikely to invest in further increases in production, he said.
“But we will complete those underway and we will ramp them up to the maximum extent possible,” he said.
“I don’t have quite such a negative outlook, going forward. I would like you to think more positively about our results. I mean, we’ve pulled out, you know, a substantial number of costs.”
BHP Billiton’s Queensland Coal business ran at an annualised rate of 68 million tonnes in the December 2013 quarter.
“There has been a lot of recovery in the market, and in the production, I should say, from Australia, because of the recovery from things like floods,” Mackenzie said.
“That’s coming to an end and, as we look forward, there’s less growth in the next few periods. We’ve seen some announcements, just overnight, about some of the cost challenges that are being faced from competition in North America – some evidence of that slowing.
“The pick-up in markets, particularly in the developed economies, and the growth in their demand for steel will almost certainly benefit metallurgical coal. And we’re starting to see some quite good steel numbers coming out of India which, in the long term, has no metallurgical coal, and will have to import.”
Mackenzie said BHP Billiton has got “the best basin in the world”
“We’ve got the best quality of hard coking coal, you know, and we will continue with our productivity agenda to open up even bigger margins and allow us to make decent numbers, even at these prices,” he said. “So we’re in for the long term.”