BHP Copper: Guidance for 2022 narrows to between 1020 and 1080 kt

BHP says its total copper production decreased by 12 per cent to 742 kt (the half year ending on 31 December 2021). Full year production is trending towards the low end of the guidance range for the 2022 financial year, which reflects lower production guidance at Pampa Norte, and narrowed guidance ranges for Escondida and Olympic Dam. Volumes will be weighted to the second half of the financial year as expected.

Uncertainty around impacts from COVID-19 remains as the pandemic evolves, despite an improved operating environment for our Chilean assets in the December 2021 half year due to high COVID-19 vaccination rates and continued use of successful control measures at our operating sites.

Escondida copper production decreased by 15 per cent to 488 kt due to concentrator feed grade decline despite a record performance for material mined.

Guidance for the 2022 financial year has been narrowed to between 1,020 and 1,080 kt as concentrator feed grade is expected to improve in the June 2022 half year as the mine sequence moves towards higher grade areas.

Concentrator feed grade decline remains forecasted at approximately two per cent for the 2022 financial year. Medium term guidance of an annual average of 1.2 Mt of copper production over the next five years remains unchanged, with production expected to be weighted towards the latter years.

Pampa Norte copper production increased by 40 per cent to 136 kt, reflecting the continued ramp up of the Spence Growth Option (SGO), partially offset by the impact of planned lower ore stacking grade, which is expected to decline by approximately 10 per cent for the 2022 financial year.

SGO demonstrated full concentrator throughput of 95 ktpd in the December 2021 quarter. Guidance for the 2022 financial year has been reduced from between 330 and 370 kt to between 260 and 300 kt, as the result of a fatality at the third party desalination plant which impacted Spence operations, operational uncertainty related to Cerro Colorado water access and licencing, including water extraction, and lower than expected recoveries at SGO.

Plant design modifications, including modifications to the rougher floatation circuit will be required to increase SGO recoveries to achieve planned copper production levels. The Spence guidance to average 300 ktpa (including cathodes) in the first four years of production will be subject to the timing of these modifications being completed.

Olympic Dam copper production decreased by 56 per cent to 44 kt as a result of the major smelter maintenance campaign in the period. The maintenance campaign was completed in January 2022 and ramp up to full capacity is now expected by April 2022 (previously March 2022), due to COVID-19 impacts on the availability of workforce.

The full scope of the maintenance campaign was delivered, including the rebuild of the flash furnace and its ancillary equipment and refurbishment of the acid plant, which has resulted in significant plant improvements. Guidance for the 2022 financial year has been narrowed to between 140 and 150 kt as production is trending towards the low end of the original guidance range.

Antamina copper production increased by one per cent to 74 kt reflecting higher copper head grades and zinc production decreased by 18 per cent to 63kt reflecting lower zinc head grades. Guidance remains unchanged for the 2022 financial year, with copper production of between 120 and 140 kt, and zinc production of between 115 and 130 kt.

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