BHP Billiton coal output rises ­– but flood still takes toll

City A.M. Reporter
BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest miner, has reported a rise in coal output but said that flooding continues to hit production.

Production of coal rose 19 per cent in the three months to 30 June compared to the previous quarter, it said.

However, coal output is still down 28 per cent from the same period last year. North eastern parts of Australia, where most of BHP’s coal is mined, saw record floods earlier this year.

“The remnant effects of the wet weather that persisted for much of 2011 financial year continued to restrict our Queensland Coal business, despite an unrelenting focus on recovery effort,” the company said in a statement.

The production report went down well with investors and analysts, who said BHP’s coal production seems to be recovering faster than expected.

“It seems to be the case that BHP is moving quicker than expected on the coal front,” said Colin Whitehead, a mining analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney.

In sharp contrast, Australia’s central bank said that a rebound in coal exports after flooding in Queensland state was taking “significantly longer than earlier expected.”

It said the return to full output might not come until early 2012.

But BHP fared much better in iron ore output, its largest business.

Output was up 14 per cent in the three months ending on 30 June as compared to the same period a year ago, the report said.

BHP mines its iron ore in areas unaffected by flooding.