Mining - Regional

BHP copper output up in FQ4

BHP copper output up in FQ4

By -

BHP Billiton reported a 1.8% increase in copper output in its fourth fiscal quarter to 470,000t from 461,700t a year ago.

For BHP's 2014 fiscal year ended June 30, copper output was up 2.2%, to 1.73Mt, the company said in its production report.

Output at Chile's Escondida mine, which BHP operates with a 57.5% stake, amounted to 241,000t of copper in concentrate and 81,500t in cathodes in the quarter, an 8.1% and 2.8% increase, respectively.

Escondida's 12-month production grew 1.6% to 844,700t on improved mill throughput and concentrator utilization, which eclipsed lower ore grades at the world's largest copper mine.

BHP said Escondida remains "on track to produce approximately 1.27Mt of copper in the 2015 financial year," though it noted that a power outage in northern Chile earlier this month, and a programmed six-day maintenance shutdown at the Laguna Seca concentrator, will impact production in the quarter ending in September.

Figures for Escondida include 100% of mine production instead of the equity interest previously reported.

The company's other Chilean copper asset, the Pampa Norte division that includes the Spence and Cerro Colorado mines, reported a 3.2% production increase to 66,800t in FQ4, while production for the full fiscal year was 233,100t, in line with the 232,600t reported in fiscal 2013.

ESCONDIDA PROJECTS UPDATE

BHP said that it had approved a US$212mn increase in the budget of the Oxide Leach Area Project to US$933mn. The project is now expected to be completed in the second half of 2014 "with no associated impact to production."

The company said the other two projects currently under development at Escondida are all on schedule and budget. These include the US$3.84bn organic growth project (79% complete) and the US$3.43bn desalination plant (12% complete).

BHP said that in fiscal 2014 exploration expenditures reached US$347mn, with greenfield mineral exploration focused on advancing copper targets in Chile and Peru.

ANTAMINA

Antamina in Peru contributed 26,200t of copper in concentrate on an equity basis in FQ4 versus 34,700t. Production in fiscal 2014 was 143,500t compared to 139,700t in fiscal 2013.

Antamina achieved record milling throughput in the fiscal 2014 year. BHPS said it expects ore grades in fiscal 2015 to remain at similar levels seen in the previous fiscal year, leading to lower copper production, consistent with the mine plan.

Antamina also produced 13,450t zinc, down 47.6%; 843,000oz silver (down 35%); 397t lead (up 7.9%), and 83t molybdenum (down 77.9%). BHP Billiton holds a 33.8% stake in the mine.

The company also produces copper at the Olympic Dam mine in Australia and Pinto Valley in the US.

IRON ORE

BHP, one of the world's top iron ore producers, reported quarterly production of 56.6Mt, up 18.8% from 47.7Mt during the year-ago June quarter.

Its 50% stake in the Samarco JV with local miner Vale in Brazil contributed 3.07Mt, a 13.5% increase compared to 2.70Mt in the same period the previous year.

OTHER ASSETS IN LATIN AMERICA

Coal production at BHP's 33.3%-owned Cerrejón mine in Colombia was down 3.5% to 2.91Mt on an equity basis in the fourth fiscal quarter.

Alumina production at Brazil's Alumar increased 3.6% to 315,000t in FQ4, while aluminum output declined 61.5% to 15,000t.

Nickel output at the Cerro Matoso operation in Colombia amounted to 10,200t, down from 12,800t in the year-ago quarter.