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October 17, 2012 9:51 am
The chief executive of BHP Billiton has warned there will be no return to the record commodity prices enjoyed by the industry over the past decade.
Speaking at the Brisbane Mining Club on Wednesday, Marius Kloppers said the “supply shortage” driven by China’s rapid economic growth had now largely been filled and prices would return to long-term levels.
“What this means is that the record prices we experienced over the past decade, driven by the ‘demand shock’, will not be there to support returns over the next 10 years,” he said.
“What we can instead expect is demand growth at more predictable and sustainable levels and more moderated pricing.”
Mr Kloppers said the challenge facing the industry in this new environment would be to improve productivity and hold down costs.
His comments came as the world’s biggest resources company by market value reported record production from its petroleum division, underlining the growing importance of its oil and gas business.
In the three months to the end of September, BHP said daily output averaged 666,000 barrels of oil equivalent, boosted by the return to production of two rigs in the Gulf of Mexico that had been shut for repairs and by strong performance of its US shale gas assets.
BHP on Wednesday also reported strong figures from its Australian coking coal operations, where production increased by 10 per cent to 8.9m tonnes over the previous quarter.
But the performance of the company’s iron ore division was less impressive.
Production of iron ore from its mines in the Pilbara region of Western Australia slipped to 43.4m tonnes for the quarter, from 44.7m tonnes in the prior quarter. However, BHP said it remained on track to lift production of the key steelmaking ingredient by 5 per cent to 183m tonnes in the year to June 2013.
On Tuesday, rival Rio Tinto confirmed guidance for its iron ore business in the region. The world’s second-largest miner of iron ore after Brazil’s Vale said it was on track to ship 250m tonnes of iron ore this year, after producing a record 63m tonnes from its mines in the Pilbara in the three months to the end of September.
Shares in BHP rose 1.1 per cent to A$33.45 in Sydney on Wednesday with analysts describing the update as “solid” and slightly ahead of market expectations.
In what may be its last update as an independent company, Xstrata said that volumes of thermal coal, zinc and lead had increased compared with the third quarter of last year, with output of thermal coal increasing 13 per cent over the first nine months of the year compared with 2011.
However, copper production dipped by 13 per cent in the third quarter as Xstrata continued “to transition from older, end-of-life mines to new, lower-cost operations”.
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