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South32's Q1'19 metallurgical coal output surges 207% YOY

South32 Ltd. said Oct. 18 that metallurgical coal production in the first quarter of fiscal 2019 increased 207% to 1.5 million tonnes, from 494,000 tonnes in the prior year, resulting from increased productivity at the Appin and Dendrobium longwalls of its Illawarra operation in New South Wales, Australia.

Alumina production in the three-month period, on the other hand, fell 9% to 1.2 million tonnes, partly due to unplanned maintenance and power outages at its Brazil alumina operations and additional repairs at its Worsley alumina plant. Aluminum output was flat at 248,000 tonnes.

The Australian producer's energy coal production notched a 6% decline to 6.6 million tonnes, in response to lower commodity demand. Export production at its South Africa Energy Coal segment was affected by a damaged dragline at its Klipspruit operation in August.

Manganese ore production climbed 11% to 1.5 million wet tonnes, but its manganese alloy production dropped 7% to 52,000 tonnes.

Payable zinc and silver production at the Cannington mine in Queensland, Australia, grew 20% and 15% to 13,200 tonnes and 3.2 million ounces, respectively, while payable lead production at the operation stood pat at 25,800 tonnes.

The Cerro Matoso mine in Colombia saw its payable nickel production fall by 9% to 10,700 tonnes, resulting from the processing of lower grade stockpiled ore feed. Production at the mine was not impacted by a September decision by the Constitutional Court of Colombia over alleged health and environmental issues.

After its performance in the fiscal first quarter ended Sept. 30, annual production guidance for the full year across all operations have been retained.

South32 completed the US$1.3 billion acquisition of an 83% stake in Arizona Mining Inc. in August and immediately began development of the Hermosa silver-lead-zinc project's twin exploration declines, as well as a comprehensive review of development plans.

In addition, the miner took up a 50% stake in the Eagle Downs metallurgical coal project in Queensland, Australia, and subsequently assumed operating control over the project.

At the close of its combined US$1.46 billion acquisitions of Arizona Mining and Eagle Downs, net cash balance dropped by US$1.36 billion to US$679 million.

During the September quarter, South32 invested US$12.1 million in exploration programs, with US$3.8 million directed to 18 early-stage greenfield projects.