BHP's iron ore business shoots the lights out

World number one miner BHP Billiton maintained strong momentum in its September 2013 quarter as production from its most profitable division surged compared to last year.

BHP produced a whopping 48.8 million tonnes of iron ore during the quarter up 23% from the same period last year and 2% from the previous quarter.

The $3.2 billion Jimblebar mine expansion, one of four major BHP projects that reached production, increasing capacity to 35 million tonnes per annum achieved first production approximately six months ahead of the original schedule, according to the company's report.

BHP's $1.75 billion project to build a fourth pellet plant at its Samarco operations in Brazil is scheduled for production in the first half of next year and the project is 95% finished. The project will increase Samarco's annual production by 8.5 million to 30.5 million tonnes per year.

The Melbourne-based company said in its third quarter operational review that optimization of its Western Australia iron ore supply chain has enabled it to substantially increase its 2014 financial year production guidance to 212 million tonnes (100% basis).

"Longer term, a low cost option to expand Jimblebar to 55 mtpa and the broader debottlenecking of the supply chain is expected to underpin further capital efficient growth in capacity to approximately 260 mtpa to 270 mtpa (100 per cent basis)," BHP said.

BHP's metallurgical coal production also increased significantly during the quarter with production up 14% year on year, although the 10.1 million tonnes Q3 figure represents a 6% drop compared to the June quarter of this year.

The company is maintaining full year production guidance is maintained for coal, copper and coal.