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BHP's fiscal Q1'18 copper production up 14% despite Escondida delay

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BHP's fiscal Q1'18 copper production up 14% despite Escondida delay

While Rio Tinto witnessed a decline in copper production and slashed its 2017 guidance due to the delayed ramp-up of the expansion of the Escondida mine in Chile, partner BHP Billiton Group has reported an increase in copper output for the September quarter and left its guidance unchanged.

The mining heavyweight said Oct. 18 that Escondida copper output climbed 23% to 268,000 tonnes during the quarter, mainly due to the start-up of the Los Colorados extension project in September and higher average copper grade and throughput.

Copper production from the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia was also higher, climbing 3% to 42,000 tonnes compared to the same quarter of 2016 due to first ore from the high-grade Southern Mining Area.

Overall copper production increased 14% to 404,000 tonnes, with the increases from Escondida and Olympic Dam partially offset by a decline in output from the Pampa Norte mine in Chile.

BHP said its copper production guidance for the 2018 financial year remains unchanged at between 1.66 million tonnes and 1.79 million tonnes, with 1.13 million tonnes to 1.23 million tonnes to come from Escondida.

Meanwhile, iron ore production in the September quarter dipped 3% year over year to 55.6 million tonnes on an attributable basis due to an expected reduction in output from the Western Australian operations.

Record production at the Jimblebar mine was more than offset by the impact of lower stockpile levels following the fire at the Mt Whaleback screening plant in June and planned maintenance in the September quarter.

The 2018 financial year guidance remains unchanged at between 239 million tonnes and 243 million tonnes on an attributable basis.

Metallurgical coal production in the September quarter remained flat at 10.6 million tonnes, while energy coal output slipped 2% to 6.7 million tonnes.

CEO Andrew Mackenzie said BHP's performance in the first quarter of the 2018 financial year keeps the company on track to deliver 7% full-year growth.