Oct 19 (Reuters) - Australia's South32 Ltd S32.AX on Monday posted a 12.8% jump in first-quarter metallurgical coal output supported by the reintroduction of a form of underground coal mining at the diversified miner's Illawarra project.
The miner said it produced 1.9 million tonnes of metallurgical coal in the quarter ended September, up from 1.7 million tonnes a year ago, and 22% higher than in the fourth quarter. It added that the successful return to a three longwall mine configuration at Illawarra helped.
The world's largest producer of manganese ore also said output of the commodity rose 3.2% to 1.5 million wet metric tonnes (wmt) over the quarter as its South Africa operations returned to full production, with COVID-19 restrictions in the country lifted.
With results improving, South32 said it will restart its share buyback programme for the remaining $121 million of the total $1.43 billion program originally planned.
The company kept its fiscal 2021 production guidance intact for all of its operations.
Global steel production has picked up as industrial and construction activity resumes, helping coal prices come back from their COVID-19 slump.
As part pf planned cost cuts, South32 said it would downsize offices in Singapore and London and reduce its footprint elsewhere.
(Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)
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