PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Diversified major BHP has reported record production from its Western Australian iron-ore operations, along with record average concentrator throughput at its Escondida copper joint venture, in Chile, during the half-year ended December.
“BHP delivered strong safety and operational performance in the first half of the 2021 financial year, including record production at Western Australian Iron Ore and concentrator throughput at Escondida,” said CEO Mike Henry.
“Overall group production for the half was in line with previous strong results. We achieved a number of milestones, bringing on new production through the Spence growth option, in Chile, and the safe restart of Samarco in Brazil.
“In petroleum, we increased our stake in the high quality Shenzi asset and Atlantis Phase 3 began production ahead of schedule. Coal production was impacted by wet weather in Australia and strike action in Colombia,” Henry added.
The miner on Wednesday reported that iron-ore production for the half-year reached 128.4-million tonnes during the six months to December, with 62.4-million tonnes produced during the December quarter.
While quarterly production was down 6% on the September quarter, half-year production was up 6% on the previous corresponding period.
BHP told shareholders that the lower volumes during the December quarter reflected planned Mining Area C and South Flank major tie-in activity, weather impacts and a temporary power disruption.
Petroleum production for the half-year was down 12%, to 50.5-million barrels of oil equivalent, and down 11% in the December quarter, compared with the September quarter, to 23.8-million barrels of oil equivalent.
BHP noted that lower volumes resulted from Hurricanes Delta and Zeta in the Gulf of Mexico, and lower seasonal demand at Bass Strait, which was partially offset by additional Shenzi volumes from November onwards, following the completion of an increased working interest in the project.
Meanwhile, copper production for the half-year was down 5%, to 841 300 t, but up by 4% on the September quarter, to 428 100 t in the three months to December.
The higher copper volumes in the December quarter resulted from record quarterly concentrate throughput at Escondida, and planned maintenance at Spence, which impacted the September quarter production.
Metallurgical coal production in the half-year was down by 5%, and by 2% in the December quarter, to 19.2-million tonnes and 9.5-million tonnes respectively, while energy coal production was down 30% in the half-year and 23% in the quarter, to 8.2-million tonnes and 3.6-million tonnes respectively.
Wet weather conditions in Queensland and a 91-day strike at the Cerrejon operation all impacted on coal production during the periods under review, along with unplanned maintenance at the South Walker Creek operation.
Meanwhile, nickel production for the half-year increased by 31%, to 46 200 t, and by 8% on the September quarter, to 24 000 t, with the higher nickel volumes resulting from planned maintenance undertaken in the prior quarter.
At the end of December, BHP had four major projects under development with a combined budget of $8.5-billion over the life of the projects, with all projects tracking to plan.
“Our major development projects in iron-ore, petroleum and potash are progressing well. We continue to build on our strong foundations, increasing future-facing options in copper and nickel through exploration, partnerships and acquisitions,” said Henry.
“We are well positioned to sustainably grow shareholder and social value as the global economy recovers from the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, the miner has warned of an impairment charge of between $1.15-billion and $1.25-billion for the half-year, for its Australian thermal coal assets, and associated deferred tax assets, which the miner said reflected current market conditions, the strengthening Australian dollar, changes to the New South Wales energy coal mine plan, and updated assessment of the likelihood of recovering tax losses.