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UPDATE 1-Australian gold miner Newcrest says profit slides on output disruptions

disruptions@

* Underlying profit slid to $116 mln in 6 mths to Dec. 31

* That was down from $273 million the year before

* Expects gold production to pick up in current half (Adds detail on output disruptions, shares)

Feb 15 (Reuters) - Australia's top gold miner, Newcrest Mining Ltd, on Thursday reported a 58-percent fall in half-year underlying profit, dragged down by disruptions such as an earthquake hitting one of its key sites earlier in 2017.

Underlying profit slid to $116 million in the six months to Dec. 31, down from $273 million the year before and below a forecast of $143 million based on the average of three estimates in a poll of analysts.

Newcrest said profits were affected as operations at its flagship Cadia mine in Australia were only able to start up gradually after being closed by a minor earthquake in April.

The company also cited unplanned maintenance at its Lihir mine in Papua New Guinea as impacting profits.

Gold production in the quarter that ended in December inched down from a year ago but improved from the previous three months, the company reported in January.

The firm on Thursday said its cost of production on an "all-in sustaining basis" ticked up about 12 percent, reflecting the lower volume contribution from Cadia.

However, Newcrest expects gold production to improve in the current half-year as Cadia ramps up.

The company maintained its production estimate of 2.4 million to 2.7 million ounces of gold and 80,000 to 90,000 tonnes of copper in the year to June, 2018.

It announced an interim dividend of 7.5 cents per share, the same as last year.

Shares of the miner closed up 3.4 percent on Thursday, supported by firm gold prices. (Reporting by Devika Syamnath and Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Joseph Radford)