Depleting Escondida drops BHP copper production

Depleting Escondida drops BHP copper production

Escondida mine in Chile. Source: Nasa

In its operational performance report BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP, NYSE:BHP) announced on Tuesday its first quarter iron ore production rose 7% to 61.3 million tonnes compared to last year and on track to meet full-year guidance of 247 million tonnes.

The increased output was thanks to ramp-up of the Jimblebar mining hub at in Western Australia during its 2015 financial year.

Copper output slipped 3% year on year and 13% compared to the June quarter this year to 377,000 tonnes mainly because of a decline in grades at Escondida, the world's largest copper mine in Chile.

Escondida copper production for the September 2015 quarter decreased by 14% to 230,000 tonnes despite record material mined. BHP is spending $3.4 billion on water project at 57.5%-owned Escondida for completion in 2017.

The Melbourne-based firms said production guidance for Escondida remains unchanged at approximately 940,000 tonnes for the 2016 financial year "as increased throughput, enabled by the completion of the Escondida Organic Growth Project 1 and operational improvements, will only partly offset an anticipated 27% decline in grade."

BHP also says it received approval to extend operational permits to 2023 at its Cerro Colorado copper mine in Chile. For the current year BHP is sticking to overall production guidance of 1.5 million tonnes.

The September quarter production of met and thermal coal were both static compared to last year at a respective 10.4 million and 9.8 million tonnes. The company said productivity improvements offset planned longwall moves and wash-plant shutdowns at the Queensland met coal operations.

BHP also says it will cut capital spending in its petroleum division by $200 million to $2.9 billion.

Oil and gas production for the quarter fell 4% year on year to 64.5 million barrels, but the company is maintaining guidance of 237 million barrels for the full financial year and the company said it continues to pursue high-quality oil plays with additional prospective acreage acquired in the Beagle sub-basin in Western Australia and the Western Gulf of Mexico.