Anglo American reports solid 2011 profits thanks to coal and diamonds

London-based giant miner Anglo American PLC (LON:AAL) announced today record $13.3-billion 2011 earnings, a 23% increase in underlying earnings a share and a 14% increase in annual operating profits to $11.1 billion.

In the release, Anglo American’s CEO Cynthia Carroll said the positive results were a product of “impressive operational performance and higher prices,” mainly in the company’s coal and diamonds stakes.

The miner increased its stake in the De Beers diamond business to 85% in November when it bought the Oppenheimer family's shares for US$5.1 billion.

The operating profit for iron ore and manganese, the biggest sector within Anglo American, was up 23%.

Three were the major projects completed by Anglo in 2011, said Carrol: the Kolomela iron ore mine in South Africa, the expansion of the Los Bronces copper mine in Chile and the Barro Alto nickel operation in Brazil.

Regarding Los Bronces, Carrol said that she didn’t see the dispute getting in the way of future investments in Chile. The conflict between the company and copper giant Codelco goes back to November last year, when Chile’s state-owned company decided to exercise an option and Anglo American responded by selling a 24.5% stake in its southern Chilean division to Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp. for $5.39 billion. By doing this, Anglo undermined plans by Codelco to exercise its option, something that copper miner would only have been able to do in January.

The company is also evaluating changing the size of its platinum unit to reach previous returns.

Full financial results and a webcast can be accessed here.

(Photo: Cynthia Carroll interviewed by the University of Kansas, where she earned a master's degree in geology in 1982)