BHP’s share price leapt more than 3 per cent on Wednesday morning after the mining giant revealed record Australian iron ore production for the 2017-18 financial year.
Full-year production came in at 275 million tonnes, which was 3 per cent more than the previous year. Metallurgical coal and copper production also saw strong increases.
BHP is now close to reaching its goal of producing 290 tonnes of iron ore a year.
BHP did not breakdown where this iron ore went. However, the Western Australian government reports that in 2016-17, 82 per cent of Western Australian iron ore was exported to China.
The full year results were buoyed by a strong June quarter, when iron ore output rose to 72 million tonnes, 8 per cent more than the same period the previous year.
“We have delivered a strong finish to the 2018 financial year with an 8 per cent increase in annual production and record output at Western Australia Iron Ore, Queensland Coal and at our Spence copper mine in Chile,” BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said.
BHP’s production of metallurgical coal – that is, the coal used in steelmaking – was up 7 per cent for the year, at 43 million tonnes.
Copper output, meanwhile, was up a massive 32 per cent.
But thermal coal, which is used to generate power, was flat at 29 million tonnes.
Shareholders welcomed the report, piling in to buy into the company and pushing the BHP share price up by $1.07, or 3.3 per cent, to $33.57.
Investment bank UBS had estimated fourth-quarter iron ore shipments to remain almost constant year over year at 71.7 million tonnes on a 100 per cent basis.
The miner added that it expects to record a charge of $650 million in its 2017-18 financial results for BHP Billiton Brasil on account of the Samarco Dam failure.
BHP also said its plan to divest its underperforming US shale oil and gas business is on track and added that transactions could be completed later in the year.
The race for onshore shale assets in the Eagle Ford, Permian, Haynesville and Fayetteville basins is led by UK oil giant BP, which made an offer worth well in excess of $10 billion, people familiar with the matter told Reuters in June.
At the peak of the mining boom in 2011, a tonne of iron ore was fetching upwards of $US180. This drastically fell away to a low of around $US40 in late 2015.
Today one tonne of iron ore is selling for around $US63.
BHP Billiton is currently the most valuable company on the ASX, with a market capitalisation of more than $170 billion. Most Australians are shareholders in the company through their super fund.