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UPDATE 1-Global miner BHP Group H1 profit falls 8 pct as copper earnings slump

slump@ (Adds segment performance, copper guidance)

Feb 19 (Reuters) - The worlds biggest miner BHP Group said on Tuesday its first-half profit fell 8 percent as copper earnings slumped because of declining ore quality at its Escondida mine and a number of production outages globally.

Underlying profit from continuing operations for the six months that ended on Dec. 31 fell to $4.03 billion from $4.40 billion a year ago, the company said in a statement. That missed consensus estimates compiled by Vuma Financial of $4.209 billion.

Underlying profit is watched by analysts and investors as a measure of the companys performance exclusive of one-time gains and losses.

Revenue from continuing operations rose 1 percent during the period to $20.74 billion.

Last month BHP said its second-quarter iron ore production fell 9 percent after it was forced to derail an iron ore-cargo train after it ran away en route to a key shipping hub.

Revenue from iron ore mining, its biggest division, rose by 2.7 percent, while copper revenues slumped 17.3 percent due to unplanned production outages at its Olympic Dam and Spence projects.

Earnings before income tax, depreciation and amortization from copper fell nearly 40 percent in the first half.

However, the miner slightly raised its 2019 copper production forecast to between about 1.6 million tonnes and 1.7 million tonnes.

BHP said it cut net debt to $9.9 billion during the period, below its $10 to $15 billion target.

BHP declared an interim dividend of $0.55 per share, the same as last year. (Reporting By Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; editing by Christian Schmollinger)