Aussie Mining Firms Report Higher Iron Ore, Gold Outputs

Australia's mining industry will continue to enjoy a boom in 2012 based on production reports that resource companies released this week. Output was particularly higher for iron ore and gold resources.

Among the miners that have issued production figures are BHP Billiton and OZ Minerals, while Lynas released its production forecast.

Mining giant BHP Billiton ( BHP ) said it expects to exceed its full-year iron ore targets based on a 23 per cent increase in first-half production. For the first three months of its financial year which ended in December, the production hit 41,072 million tonnes. That was 4 per cent higher compared to the previous quarter.

For the first half of the financial year, BHP's iron ore production was at 80,644 MT. The firm explained the higher output to dual monitoring of its rail infrastructure and additional ship loading capacity at Port Hedland.

BHP also enjoyed a 36 per cent increased petroleum production for the half-year with 109.4 million barrels of oil equivalent due to the firm's purchase of the Fayetteville and Petrohawk businesses in the U.S. and strong output from existing oil fields.

However, BHP's copper production plummeted 16 per cent, lead declined by 9 per cent, zinc tumbled down 38 per cent and silver decreased by 15 per cent. For the same period, alumina and aluminium production was relatively flat.

BHP's coal production grew 5 per cent at its NSW facilities and Cerrejon operations in Columbia.

OZ Minerals (ASX: OZL) boosted it full-year production of gold in the last quarter of 2011 to 160,007 ounces, but its copper output went down to 107,744 tonnes. The output still met production guidance of 150,000 to 160,000 ounces of gold and 100,0000 to 110,000 tonnes of copper.

For Q4, OZ's gold output went up almost 5 per cent to 37,814 ounces but copper production decreased by 1.5 per cent to 28,802 tonnes.

Besides meeting annual production targets, OZ also meet cash cost targets with its 2011 cash cost at 70.4 cents per pound which is within the guidance of 70 to 70.4 cents. For 2012, OZ predicts cost would have a higher average ranging from 100 to 110 cents.

For 2012, the miner kept copper production guidance at 100,000 to 110,000 tonnes and gold between 130,000 and 150,000 ounces.

The miner plans to spend $29 million in 2012 to build an underground mine and processing plant at Carrapateena, the site of OZ's copper and gold venture in South Australia. OZ would also spend $70 million for significant exploration at Prominent Hill.

Meanwhile, rare earths mining firm Lynas Corporation (ASX: LYC) reported a significant increase in estimated resource at its major Mount Weld project in Western Australia. The miner upped by 37 per cent its mineral resource estimate at Mt Weld to 23.9 million tonnes from previous estimates in September 2010. The hike was due to an extension drilling program at Mt Weld, one of the two rare earth projects of Lynas in the development phase.

The other is the Lynas Advance Materials Plant in Malaysia which could be caught up in the Malaysian national elections in March. Reports said that the final approval of the facility is on the line because of candidates' fear of a voter backlash due to environmental concerns from residents.

Lynas Malaysia said it has applied for a temporary operating licence and if the government would approve it, the firm could start its controversial facility in Kuantan within six weeks.

Rare earths are used in the production of several electronic consumer products such as digital TV sets, MP3 players and fluorescent light bulbs.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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