BHP has reported reduced production levels across much of its Australian operations for the September quarter as the company underwent planned maintenance activities and was hit by COVID-19 disruptions.
Copper production at Olympic Dam decreased by 43 per cent to approximately 29,500 tonnes for the quarter, resulting from the ramp down and commencement of a major smelter maintenance campaign.
COVID-19 played its part, pushing back the smelter maintenance campaign approximately one month due to border restrictions impacting workforce availability.
BHP expects the maintenance campaign to be completed towards the end of 2021, before ramping back up to full capacity by March 2022.
BHP’s Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) production decreased by 6 per cent to circa 62 million tonnes for the September quarter, as the company underwent major maintenance of car dumper one and the train load out at Jimblebar.
Minor impacts were also felt by COVID-19-related temporary rail labour shortages as border restrictions remain in place.
The reduced production was partially offset by a strong performance at BHP’s Yandi iron ore mine in the Pilbara, which is currently being ramped down as it nears the end of its life.
BHP received regulatory approval to increase capacity at its Port Hedland operations to 330 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) on a 100 per cent basis in early September, subject to the outcomes of standard appeals processes.
The company’s near-term WAIO goal is on the sustainable achievement of 290 Mtpa. In mid-October, the BHP board approved a port debottlenecking program to support this, expected to commence in the December 2021 quarter.
BHP’s metallurgical coal (met coal) production decreased by 9 per cent to circa nine million tonnes in the September quarter, with Queensland coal production affected by planned wash plant maintenance at Goonyella and Peak Downs.
Planned dragline maintenance at Caval Ridge also took place as the company mined in higher strip ratio areas at Poitrel in line with the mine plan.
BHP said its iron ore decreases were partially offset by record stripping across its BMC-owned metallurgical coal mines, along with a significant uplift in truck productivity at the South Walker Creek mine.
Nickel West experienced a production decrease of 20 per cent to circa 17,800 tonnes for the September quarter, which came off the back of planned maintenance at its Kalgoorlie smelter, Kwinana refinery, and the Leinster and Kambalda concentrators.
Production guidance for BHP’s Australian copper, iron ore, met coal and nickel operations remains unchanged for the 2022 financial year.
BHP chief executive officer Mike Henry said he was pleased with the output of operations, with the maintenance activities expected to occur.
“BHP’s operations delivered reliably during the first quarter (of the 2021-22 financial year) and we completed planned major maintenance activities across a number of our assets. We continue to skilfully navigate the ongoing challenges of COVID-19,” he said.