BHP copper production drops but guidance remains unchanged

Total copper production decreased by four per cent to 413 kt. Guidance for the 2021 financial year remains unchanged at between 1,480 and 1,645 kt.

For the September 2020 quarter, BHP’s Chilean assets operated with a reduction in their operational workforces of approximately 30 per cent (versus approximately 35 per cent in the June 2020 quarter) as a result of the comprehensive plan we have implemented for COVID-19.

Escondida copper production decreased by three per cent to 285 kt, with continued strong concentrator throughput of 378 ktpd offset by lower cathode production. The operating environment remains challenging, with a high degree of uncertainty about the continued impacts from COVID-19 and expected absenteeism levels.

Guidance for the 2021 financial year remains unchanged at between 940 and 1,030 kt, and reflects a decline in the copper grade of concentrator feed of approximately four per cent, and the need to continue to balance mine development and production requirements with processing capacity. Production is also likely to be affected in the 2022 financial year as a result of the COVID-19 impact of a reduced operational workforce leading to lower material movement in the 2021 financial year. Guidance of an annual average of 1.2 Mt of copper production over the next five years remains unchanged.

Pampa Norte copper production decreased by 33 per cent to 43 kt, largely due to planned maintenance at Spence and the impact of a reduced operational workforce due to COVID-19 preventative measures.

Guidance for the 2021 financial year remains unchanged at between 240 and 270 kt, and reflects the start-up of the Spence Growth Option, partially offset by expected grade decline of approximately seven per cent.

Cerro Colorado is progressing in accordance with its plan to reduce throughput and costs to achieve improved cash returns and ensure viable mining operations for the remaining period of its current environmental licence, which expires at the end of the 2023 calendar year.

Olympic Dam copper production increased 47 per cent to 52 kt, the highest quarterly rate since the December 2015 quarter, supported by improved underground mine productivity and strong smelter performance.

The physical replacement and commissioning of the refinery crane is scheduled to be completed in the March 2021 quarter.

Guidance for the 2021 financial year remains unchanged at between 180 and 205 kt.

Antamina copper production decreased by eight per cent to 35 kt and zinc increased by 68 per cent to 34 kt, reflecting lower copper head grades and higher zinc head grades, as well as the impacts of operating with a reduced workforce due to COVID-19 preventative measures.

While operations have ramped up following a six-week COVID-19 related shutdown during the June 2020 quarter, Antamina continues to operate with a reduced workforce, which will impact material mined in the 2021 financial year.

Guidance remains unchanged for the 2021 financial year, with copper production of between 120 and 140 kt, and zinc production of between 140 and 160 kt.

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