Xstrata Thermal-Coal Output Rises on New Mines; Copper Falls

Xstrata Plc, the largest exporter of power-station coal, said production of the fuel from Australia rose to a record last year after the Mangoola mine started and the Newlands underground project boosted capacity.

Xstrata produced 49.8 million metric tons of thermal and semi-soft coal in the country, a 12 percent gain on the previous year, the Zug, Switzerland-based company said today in a statement. Mined nickel volumes also climbed to a record, while copper output dropped 2.7 percent.

“The fourth-quarter coal result repeated the strong performance of the third quarter with particularly good performance from the Australian thermal coal operations,” Deutsche Bank AG analysts Rob Clifford, Grant Sporre and Gaetan De Buyer said in a report.

Xstrata, seeking to increase total mining production by 50 percent through 2014 to benefit from growing Asian demand for coal and metals, started output from the Mangoola mine in New South Wales in February. It also expanded its Newlands operation in Queensland. Australia is the largest coal exporter.

Xstrata’s worldwide thermal-coal production advanced to 72.4 million tons last year from 65.6 million tons, while output of coking coal, used in steelmaking, held steady at 7.6 million tons. Total volumes rose 6.8 percent to 85.3 million tons.

‘Performance Catalysts’

The shares declined 0.4 percent to 1,074.5 pence at the close in London after rising as much as 2 percent.

The company last year approved seven projects with a total investment of $2.6 billion, it said in the statement. Xstrata has “a number of key projects to deliver that we believe offer a number of share price performance catalysts through the year,” the Deutsche Bank analysts said.

The start of Mangoola helped counter the effect of floods at the beginning of the year in Queensland and New South Wales. In South Africa, thermal-coal output fell 3.4 percent because of industrial action and a transition to open-cut mines from underground operations, Xstrata said in the statement.

Mined copper output declined to 888,979 tons from 913,469 tons. Production of copper cathode, a finished form of the metal, dropped 9 percent to 650,917 tons. Xstrata’s share of production from the Collahuasi venture in Chile fell 10 percent to 199,400 tons because of lower copper grades, maintenance and adverse weather in the first and third quarters, it said.

Xstrata produced a record 105,925 tons of nickel, 15 percent more than the previous year. Ferrochrome output slipped 12 percent to 1.02 million tons.

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