"BHP Billiton remains on track to meet full-year production and cost guidance after a solid operational performance this quarter," chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said in a press release unveiling production numbers for all of the miner's units: petroleum, copper, iron ore, metallurgical coal and energy coal.
At its projected production rate, BHP will retain its world number three ranking in output and exports of the steel-making commodity, which accounts for more than half its revenue and profits.
Only Brazil's Vale and fellow Australian miner Rio Tinto are larger in iron ore. In their own production reports, Vale said it produced a record 88.2Mt the September quarter, just ahead of Rio Tinto, and would also continue to increase output.
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BHP, like its rivals, is working it mines harder to drive down costs and improve efficiencies as demand for its ore softens in the key China market.
Iron ore prices are down sharply from a high of nearly $200 a tonne in 2011 to $52.10 as of Wednesday. The price is forecast to drop to $50 over the next two years, according to a recent Reuters poll.
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Iron ore miners have been on a drive to lower their iron ore production costs to close to $10-$15 a tonne to keep ahead of the deterioration in pricing.
In copper, production at BHP dropped 3 per cent year-on-year to 377kt (kilotons or 1,000 tons) as lower grades of the metal mined at Escondida in Chile offset improvements in operating performance across the unit.
Production at Escondida, which BHP owns in partnership with Rio Tinto, dropped 14 percent to 230kt. BHP said record material was mined but offset by a 17 percent decline in grade. Guidance for Escondida was unchanged at about 940kt for the full year.
Total petroleum production slipped 4 percent to 64.5 million barrels of oil equivalent (Mmboe), while guidance for the full-year was unchanged at 237Mmboe.
Crude oil, condensate and natural gas liquids dropped 1 percent to 30.7Mmboe, while natural gas dropped 7 percent to 203 billions of cubic feet (bcf) as BHP put off developing onshore U.S. gas sites. This would not impact production guidance, the company said.
BHP cut its planned spending on petroleum by 6 percent to $2.9 billion for the full year. That figure includes $1.4 billion to be spend onshore in the U.S.
Metallurgical coal production was in line year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter at 10,449kt and energy coat at 9,847kt. Guidance for both was unchanged for the full year.
Nickel production for the first-quarter dropped 12 percent to 22kt, which BHP said reflected a cut in third party ore delivered to its Kambalda concentrator in WA.
South32, the company spun out of BHP earlier this year with aluminum and coal assets, will release its first-quarter production numbers on Thursday.
- Reuters contributed to this report.