BHP Billiton posts record output across operations

BHP Billiton, the world`s top miner, reported a raft of annual production records on Tuesday, led by strong fourth-quarter gains in copper, nickel and coal.
  
Sweeping industrial modernisation and urban growth in China has led a boom in demand for and prices of minerals, with BHP Billiton and rivals producing as much as possible in response.
  
BHP Billiton said strong demand underpinned record annual output for natural gas, alumina, aluminium, copper, nickel, iron ore, manganese ore and metallurgical coal, used in steel making, while output rose for energy coal and diamonds.
  
Analysts said the quarterly result was solid with no surprises for the company`s main commodities, but the mining giant could find it difficult to maintain the rapid pace of growth despite expansion plans at many projects.
  
Shares in BHP Billiton, which is expected to post a roughly 32% rise in full-year net profit to about US$13.8 billion on August 22, added 0.9% to A$38.62 in an overall market up about 0.5%.

Annual copper output rose 7%, helped by a 17% rise to 342,100 t in the three months to June 30 driven by extra production at its giant Escondida and Spence projects in Chile, where it has added new capacity.

BHP Billiton`s base metals division, chiefly copper, accounted for almost a third of last year`s overall earnings.
  
BHP Billiton, which has earmarked US$17.5 billion for 29 new projects, is nearing completion of its Ravensthorpe nickel mining and smelting project despite big cost overruns, has plans to ramp up iron ore output in far western Australia, and is considering expanding its Australian Olympic Dam copper and uranium project.

A media report said last week BHP was no longer considering an offer, while the company has refused to comment.



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