Iron ore record for BHP, coal recovery slow

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Major miner BHP Billiton booked an 11th consecutive annual production record for iron ore Wednesday but said steelmaking coal output remained muted after this year's floods in Australia.

BHP said iron ore shipments grew eight percent in the year to June to 134.4 million tonnes compared with the previous year -- with a seven percent boost in the quarter from the three months to March and output 14 percent stronger than the June quarter 2010.

"BHP Billitons commitment to invest through all phases of the economic cycle delivered an 11th consecutive annual production record in iron ore," the miner said.

BHP said steelmaking coal production rose 19 percent in the three months to June to 32.7 million tonnes as operations recovered from Australia's record floods, which peaked in January.

But output was 13 percent lower on-year and 28 percent lower than the June quarter 2010.

"The remnant effects of wet weather that persisted for much of the 2011 financial year continued to restrict our Queensland Coal business, despite an unrelenting focus on recovery efforts," BHP said.

"We continue to expect production, sales and unit costs to be impacted, to some extent, for the remainder of the 2011 calendar year," it added.

Thermal coal burned to produce power achieved production and sales records in Australia, with South African operations also lifting 13 percent, offsetting outages and disruptions in the United States and Colombia.

BHP said it had shipped 69.5 million tonnes of thermal coal in the year, representing five percent growth from a year earlier.

Rival Rio Tinto last week reported a 12 percent boost to iron ore compared with the June quarter of 2010 but said shipments for the half were lower than the first half of 2010 due to the flooding and cyclones in Australia.

The adverse weather also significantly slowed Rio's steelmaking coal production, which was 26 percent lower than the June quarter 2010.

© 2011 AFP

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