BHP boosts output by 9%

MINING giant BHP Billiton has posted production records across eight operations and four commodities in the September quarter.

Kristie Batten

Group production was up 9% for the quarter.

“With production guidance maintained across all operations and businesses, we remain on track to generate group production growth of 16% over the two years to the end of the 2015 financial year,” BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie said.

Total group iron ore production attributable to BHP was 57 million tonnes, up 17% over the same time last year and 1% up on the June quarter and full-year guidance was maintained at 204Mt.

Western Australian iron ore production increased by 15% over the same period of last year to a record 62Mt on a 100% basis with record sales of 63Mt as the Jimblebar mine ramped up ahead of schedule.

Guidance was left unchanged at 245Mt, though the September quarter production tracked ahead of that.

Mackenzie said the company’s relentless focus on productivity continued to yield strong results.

“At Western Australia iron ore, we have completed our major supply chain investments and, for the first time in a decade, we have no major projects in execution,” he said.

“With our focus now on maximising the value of existing infrastructure, we plan to reduce costs and invest judiciously in very low capital cost debottlenecking initiatives.

“These plans are expected to increase total supply chain capacity to 290 million tonnes per annum by the end of the 2017 financial year and reduce unit costs by at least 25% to less than $US20 per tonne.”

Group copper production dropped 1% to 389,000 tonnes with increases in output at Pampa Norte and Olympic Dam offsetting drops in output at Escondida and Antamina.

Guidance was left unchanged at 1.8Mt.

Metallurgical coal production jumped 25% to a record 13Mt thanks to record production and sales in Queensland and an increase in Illawarra output.

Energy coal output dropped 9% to 18Mt due to lower production across all operations.

Nickel production dropped 12% to 35,700t due to the closure of Nickel West’s Perseverance mine.

Alumina output of 1.2Mt was unchanged, while aluminium production dropped 16% to 261,000t due to the closure of Bayside and the suspension of Alumar.

Manganese ore production jumped 10% to a record 2.3Mt, while alloy production grew by 25% to 171,000t.

Petroleum production increased by 9% and natural gas production was flat, while crude oil, condensate and natural gas liquids output jumped 19% to a record 30.9 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Exploration expenditure was $79 million of which $58 million was expensed.

Mackenzie said the company was well-positioned to reduce cash costs by more than $2.3 billion and deliver volume-related productivity gains of at least $1.2 billion by the end of FY17.

Shares in BHP last traded 1.2% higher at $A34.17.