BHP lifts FY iron ore guidance

Mining giant posts 23% lift in iron ore production, comes in ahead of analysts' expectations.

BHP Billiton (BHP) has lifted its full-year production guidance for iron ore, after producing 49.6 million tonnes of the commodity in the three months to March 31, slightly ahead of analyst expectations of 48.3 million tonnes.

The mining giant's third-quarter iron ore production was a 23% improvement on the 40.2 million tonnes produced in the previous corresponding quarter.

BHP said the relatively limited impact of the wet season and the continued ramp-up of Jimblebar underpinned the strong result in iron ore.

As a result of the third-quarter results, BHP increased its full-year production guidance for iron ore by five million tonnes to 217 million tonnes.

In the quarter, BHP's production of metallurgical coal was 11.5 million tonnes, a 28% lift on the previous corresponding period, while energy coal production was 17.7 million tonnes, an 11% increase on the previous corresponding period.

In the period, petroleum production was 60.9 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe), a 10% improvement on the 55.4 mmboe produced in the March quarter of 2013.

The miner has cut its full-year guidance for total petroleum from 250 mmboe to 245 mmboe, as a result of the divestment of its Liverpool Bay asset in the UK and lower gas and natural gas liquids production in the Hawkville area of the Eagle Ford.

The miner's production of iron ore and metallurgical coal hit record levels in the first nine months of the year, said BHP chief executive officer Andrew Mackenzie, with the full-year guidance of both commodities lifted as a result.

BHP taking measured approach to Jansen

BHP reiterated its belief that Jansen was the world's best undeveloped potash resource and that investment in its potash project could come to underpin a potential fifth pillar for the mining giant.

"With our investment premised on the attractive longer-term market fundamentals for potash, we will continue to modulate the pace of development as we seek to time our entrance to meet market demand, thereby maximising shareholder returns," BHP said.

As a result of the measured approach, BHP said the level of expenditure on the potash project in the 2014 financial year is expected to be approximately 25% below prior the guidance of $US800 million.

"While the shafts are no longer expected to be completed in the previously defined timeframe, this does not affect our US$2.6 billion budget or longer-term development plans as the shafts are not on the critical path," the miner said.

"On the basis of our current projections for market demand, the Jansen mine could ramp-up to its theoretical design capacity of approximately 10 Mtpa in the decade beyond 2020."