BHP copper production increase driven by Escondida

BHP (ASX:BHP) Chief Executive Officer Mike Henry says the mining giant remains on track to meet copper, iron ore, and energy coal production for the year.

Henry says copper volumes have increased by 10%, ‘reflecting strong performance and additional tonnes from Copper South Australia, record year-to-date performance from Spence, and improved grades and production at Escondida’.

Commenting on BHP’s operational review for the nine months ended 31 March 2024, Saxo Asia-Pacific Senior Sales Trader Junvum Kim says the catalyst for its results seem to be primarily out of South America.

“BHP’s copper production increase of 15% looks to be a highlight driven by its Escondida mine (in Chile) in response to the recent rally seen in copper prices, while the company’s Western Australia iron ore production managed to grow marginally year on year despite a sharp decline in iron ore prices in the first quarter, notwithstanding the strong rebound in the iron ore price this month.”

Henry adds that Western Australia Iron Ore, the lowest cost iron ore producer globally, delivered another consistent period of production despite heavy rainfall.

“We continue to invest in improvements to our rail and port operations, which are essential for growth in the medium term to 305 million tonnes per annum and beyond,” he says.

At our BMA metallurgical coal operations in Queensland, significant wet weather including the impact of two tropical cyclones and operational challenges impacted production and unit costs, and we have revised guidance for the year.

We successfully completed the sale of the Blackwater and Daunia mines on 2 April for a total of up to US$4.1 billion (100%).

In Canada, the Jansen stage one project remains ahead of its initial schedule and is now 44 per cent complete. In Western Australia, we expect to announce a decision on the future of our nickel business in the coming months, where efforts to optimise operations and preserve value are underway.”

BHP reports increased copper production was driven by record production at Spence, strong operational performance at Copper South Australia (and the contribution from Prominent Hill and Carrapateena), and improved performance and grade at Escondida.

FY24 production guidance for BMA has been lowered to 21.5 to 22.5Mt (43 to 45Mt at 100%). Other updates to FY24 production guidance are reflected in the table below. FY24 unit cost guidance for BMA has been increased to US$119/t – US$125/t.

At Escondida, increased production was primarily due to a higher concentrator feed grade of 0.85%, increasing from 0.79%, as mining progressed into areas of high grade ore as planned following the implementation of measures to manage geotechnical events. Concentrator feed grade for FY24 is expected to be between 0.85% and 0.90%, with 0.92% grade achieved in Q3 FY24.

Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au

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Written By Adam Orlando
Mining.com.au Editor-in-Chief Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Orlando has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.