While its competitor Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) was short of its iron ore production for the first half of 2013, largest miner BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP) had a strong year of production as it reported the miner's full 2013 financial year results.
BHP Billiton posts improved iron ore output figures in the December quarter
BHP reported a strong year of production at its two major assets - the Western Australia iron ore and Escondida, which both exceeded production guidance across seven operations and five commodities.
The company's WA operations produced 45 million tonnes of iron ore in Q2, delivering a 13th consecutive yearly production record as shipments for the June 2013 quarter grew to an annualised rate of 217 mt. The Escondida copper production grew 28% to 1.1 mt for the 2013 financial year, while average copper grade went up to 1.4% and milling rates improved.
For the entire financial year, BHP's iron ore production expanded 7 per cent to 169.9 million metric tonnes even as price for the key steelmaking ingredient has gone down 10 per cent so far in 2013.
Analysts agree that BHP's performance for the past 12 months was strong.
"It was ahead of our forecasts for every single commodity with the exception of petroleum and that was just a miss on the conventional volumes," The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Young.
"We believe this result highlights BHP's current focus on increasing asset productivity is beginning to deliver meaningful results," Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a note quoted by The Wall Street Journal.
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