BHP Marks Record December Quarter Amid High Iron Ore Prices

BHP achieved a record annualised run rate of 284 million tonnes from its Pilbara operations in the December quarter as it took advantage of higher iron ore prices.

The mining giant produced 117Mt (136Mt on a 100 per cent basis) in the first half which was in line with the previous half.

But December quarter production of 62Mt (72Mt on a 100 per cent basis) was up 11 per cent on the September quarter and up 3 per cent on the previous corresponding period.

The company achieved record production at its Jimblebar and Mining Area C operations but this was offset by the impact of lower opening stockpile levels following the fire at its Mt Whaleback screening plant in June and planned maintenance in the previous quarter.

BHP said the higher volumes in the December quarter reflected increased plant availability and improved rail performance.

“Port de-bottlenecking activities were completed in the December quarter and will support higher volumes in the second half of the financial year,” the company said.

The company achieved an average price of $US57/wmt on a free-on-board basis for its ore in the December half, which was up 4 per cent on the previous corresponding period but down 8 per cent on the June half.

Full-year production guidance remains unchanged at 239-243Mt or 275-280Mt on a 100 per cent basis with volumes weighted to the second half.

BHP said it continued to work with authorities to secure the necessary approvals to increase port export capacity at Port Hedland to 290Mtpa on a 100 per cent basis.

Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said a strong operating performance in the first half allowed the company to capture the benefit of higher prices.

“The momentum we’ve built across the wider portfolio during the second quarter will flow through to an expected stronger second half operating performance,” he said.

“Together with incremental production from latent capacity projects in iron ore and copper, we expect volume growth of 6 per cent for the full year.”

Earlier this week, rival Rio Tinto reported it had shipped a record 90Mt from its Pilbara operations in the December quarter.

The two majors were the main contributors to a record 80Mt of iron ore being shipped from the Pilbara in the month of December.

BHP shares were up 41c, or 1.33 per cent, to $31.15 at the open.

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