BHP’s iron ore production for the September 2021 quarter has declined by six per cent due to planned maintenance and ongoing labour shortages caused by COVID-19-related border closures in Australia.
The company produced 63 million tonnes of iron ore during the quarter. Its 249-259 million tonne guidance for the 2021-22 financial year remains unchanged despite the fall in output.
BHP noted that rail labour shortages and COVID-19 related border restrictions in Australia had a “minor impact” but conditions had improved.
The company also received approval to increase its Port Hedland iron ore export operations to 330 million tonnes per annum in September, which will be bolstered by a debottlenecking program in the December 2021 quarter.
Copper production decreased by nine per cent to 377,000 tonnes in the September quarter, including a 43 per cent decline at the Olympic Dam operation in South Australia.
BHP stated this was largely due to a ramp down and major smelter maintenance campaign that occurred a month later than expected due to workforce limitations related to COVID-19 border restrictions.
The company anticipates that the maintenance campaign will finish at the end of the December 2021 quarter, followed by a return to full capacity in March 2022.
“BHP’s operations delivered reliably during the first quarter and we completed planned major maintenance activities across a number of our assets. We continue to skilfully navigate the ongoing challenges of COVID-19,” BHP chief executive officer Mike Henry said.
“We progressed the ramp-up of production of high-quality iron ore at South Flank and copper from the Spence growth option, and we delivered first nickel sulphate from our new plant at Kwinana.
“We sanctioned the Jansen stage one potash project in Canada, and made a series of targeted investments in copper and nickel exploration in Australia and Canada.
“These are aligned with our efforts to increase our exposure to future facing commodities and to position the portfolio to continue to deliver attractive returns and long-term value to shareholders.”
BHP’s metallurgical coal production decreased by nine per cent to nine million tonnes in the September quarter due to planned maintenance.