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BHP Billiton Posts Record Output Across Operations

BHP Billiton, the world's top miner, reported a series of annual production records on Tuesday, highlighted by a 17% jump in fourth-quarter copper output.

BHP said strong demand underpinned record annual output for natural gas, alumina, aluminum, copper, nickel, iron ore, manganese ore and metallurgical coal -- used in steel making -- while output rose for energy coal and diamonds.

Annual copper output rose 7%, helped by a sharp increase to 342,100 tons in the three months to June 30 that was driven by a continued ramp up at its giant Escondida and Spence projects in Chile, the miner said.

BHP, which has earmarked $17.5 billion for 29 new projects, said iron ore production rose 6% in the fourth quarter to 25.75 million tons, and nickel output jumped 15% to 47,700 tons.

Sweeping industrial modernization and urban growth in China has led a boom in demand for minerals, with BHP and rivals producing as much as possible to meet demand.

Quarterly aluminum production was flat at 334,000 tons, but metallurgical coal output jumped 21% to 11.13 million tons, while energy coal output rose 2%.

BHP said third-party infrastructure constraints on Australia's east coast would constrain export coal sales coal in the near-term.

Crude oil and condensate production fell 1% to 11.44 million barrels, with annual output flat as natural field decline was offset by improved facility performance.

Analysts expect BHP to post a net profit of about $13.8 billion when it reports its annual results on Aug. 22, following on from its $6.2 billion half-year profit. BHP's base metals division, chiefly copper, accounted for almost a third of last year's overall earnings.

Rio Tinto , second in size to BHP and a partner in Escondida, last week reported record second-quarter iron ore output and said coal and copper figures were mixed.

BHP has declined to comment on media reports about its possible interest in bidding for Alcoa . A media report said last week it was no longer considering an offer.

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