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BHP Billiton's record Pilbara iron ore output in FY'16 not enough to offset Samarco suspension

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BHP Billiton's record Pilbara iron ore output in FY'16 not enough to offset Samarco suspension

BHP Billiton Grouphas hit a new record for the number of tonnes of iron ore produced in a year fromits Pilbara mines in Western Australia, but it did not completely offset the impactof the suspension at theSamarco mine inBrazil.

Iron ore output from the Western Australian operations in fiscal2016 climbed 2% to 257 million tonnes on a 100% basis compared to the prior fiscalyear, but companywide production slipped 2% to 227.0 million tonnes.

BHP Billiton said July 20 that record production from the WesternAustralian operations is due to the Jimblebarhub operating at full capacity and improved utilization at the Newman plant.

June-quarter iron ore production, meanwhile, fell 7% year overyear to 55.6 million tonnes.

Total iron ore output is expected to increase to between 228million tonnes and 237 million tonnes, excluding production from Samarco, in the2017 financial year.

BHP Billiton, meanwhile, beat its full-year guidance for copperand metallurgical coal.

However, copper production in the 2016 financial year still declined8% to 1.58 million tonnes, while output in the June quarter tumbled 5% to 413,000tonnes because of lower grades at Escondidain Chile.

Full-year metallurgical coal output lifted 1% to 42.8 milliontonnes, while production in the June quarter rose 4% to 11.8 million tonnes.

BHP Billiton attributed the higher output to record productionat five coal mines in Queensland, Australia, which more than offset the end of productionat the Crinum mine.

Energy coal production in fiscal 2016 slipped 16% year over yearto 34.2 million tonnes due to the divestment of the San Juan mine in New Mexico,unfavorable weather and operational rescheduling at the energy coal operations inNew South Wales and unfavorable weather at the Cerrejon mine in Colombia.

Full-year nickel production dropped 10% to 80,700 tonnes, reflectingplanned major maintenance outages at NickelWest's Kalgoorlie smelter and Kwinana refinery during the December 2015quarter and a reduction in third-party ore delivered to the Kambalda concentrator.

June-quarter nickel production, however, climbed 21% year overyear to 23,400 tonnes.

Meanwhile, BHP Billiton expects underlying attributable profitin the first half of this year to include charges of up to US$175 million due toredundancies and write-downs mainly against the coal business.

The company also expects to book an exceptional item of betweenUS$150 million and US$200 million to cover potential litigation and tax-relatedpayments.