Mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP: Quote,BHP.AX,BBL: Quote,BLT.L) reported Wednesday a 15 percent year-over-year increase in iron ore production for the fourth quarter, and an 8 percent growth from the previous third quarter. Production of metallurgical coal also grew a modest 2 percent, despite numerous operating challenges.
Meanwhile, smaller rival Rio Tinto Plc (RIO: Quote,RIO.L) reported Tuesday that its global iron ore production for the second quarter was almost flat with last year, but increased sequentially, even as economic conditions deteriorated notably.
Issuing its production report for the fourth quarter ended June 30, 2012, the world's largest mining company said it recorded a 15 percent increase in production of iron ore to 40.89 million tonnes from the year-ago period. Production also grew 8 percent from the prior quarter.
The company reported a 19 percent increase in full-year 2012 production to a record 159.48 million tonnes, delivering its twelfth consecutive annual production record. Iron ore is the main raw material used for steel production. The company also achieved annual production records across ten operations due to its robust operating performance.
BHP's fourth-quarter production of metallurgical coal, which is also used in steel making, grew a modest 2 percent from last year to 8.11 million tonnes, and increased 11 percent from the third quarter. Production for the year also increased 2 percent to 33.23 million tonnes.
Meanwhile, energy coal production edged up 1 percent from the prior-year quarter to 18.48 million tonnes, reflecting record production at BHP's export orientated operations, Cerrejon Coal (Colombia) and New South Wales Energy Coal (Australia).
The miner said its total petroleum production for the fourth quarter grew 30 percent from the year-ago period to 56.36 million barrels of oil equivalent or boe, boosted by the successful integration and further development of BHP's Onshore US shale liquids and gas assets.
The company's alumina production edged up 1 percent to 1.04 million tonnes from last year. Aluminum production for the quarter dropped 21 percent to 0.25 million tonnes from the year-ago period as it continues to be challenged by weaker prices and underlying cost pressure.
Meanwhile, the company's copper production for the fourth quarter increased 15 percent to 312,500 tonnes, and production of lead grew 9 percent to 63,667 tonnes from last year, establishing a strong momentum in BHP's base metals business. Nickel production rose 12 percent to 42,700 tonnes from last year.
Looking ahead, the company noted that Western Australia iron ore production in the 2013 financial year is forecast to increase by about five per cent from the 2012 financial year.
For the year ended June 30, 2012, BHP's petroleum exploration expenditure was $1.4 billion, of which $0.7 billion was expensed. This included $0.4 billion of exploration expenditure in the recently acquired Onshore US business. The company also spent $1.1 billion on minerals exploration, of which $0.9 billion was expensed.
BHP closed Tuesday's regular trading session on the NYSE at $63.32, up $0.52 or 0.83% on a volume of 2.59 million shares. In the past 52 weeks, the stock has been trading in a range of $59.87 to $94.95.
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by RTT Staff Writer
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