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BHP Billiton lowers FY'17 copper production expectations

Mining heavyweight BHP Billiton Group has revised its 2017 financial year production guidance for copper down 2% due to the negative impact of a state-wide power outage and unplanned maintenance on output from the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia.

BHP Billiton said Jan. 25 that it now expects to produce 1.6 million tonnes in the current financial year.

Olympic Dam output dropped 30% year over year in the first half of the fiscal year to 78,000 tonnes, which dragged the company's total copper production down 7% to 712,000 tonnes compared to the first half of the 2016 financial year.

December quarter 2016 output was also down 7% to 357,000 tonnes compared to the same period of 2015.

Western Australian iron ore production, however, hit a new record in the first half, climbing 4% year over year to 117.6 million tonnes. Output in the quarter rose 9% to about 60.0 million tonnes.

BHP Billiton said higher production was due to the continued ramp-up of additional capacity at Jimblebar and improved track reliability and lower scheduled maintenance at Yandi.

Metallurgical coal production, meanwhile, rose 1% to 21.1 million tonnes in the first half of fiscal 2017 compared to the prior corresponding period, while energy coal slipped 4% to 13.5 million tonnes.

For the December 2016 quarter, met coal was up 2% at 10.6 million tonnes, while energy coal slid 4% to 6.7 million tonnes compared to the same quarter of 2015.

The lower energy coal output was largely due to a 13% decline in production from the operations in New South Wales, Australia, which was partially offset by an 11% increase in volumes at the Cerrejon mine in Colombia.

BHP Billiton expects underlying attributable profit for the first half of the 2017 financial year to include gains of about US$150 million to US$200 million as a result of asset divestments.

The company also expects to book a US$164 million exceptional item related to the cancellation of the Caroona exploration license and subsequent reimbursement received during the first half of the fiscal year.

BHP Billiton noted that it is still not in a position to provide an update on the financial impact on BHP Billiton Brasil Ltda of the Samarco tailings dam failure.