The strong performance recovery in the second half of 2020 continued in the fourth quarter of the year, says diversified miner Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani.
"As expected, second-half production returned to 95% of 2019 rates, benefiting from strong performances in copper at Los Bronces, in Chile, and in iron-ore at Minas-Rio, in Brazil.
"The recovery was all the more credible given planned maintenance at both the Collahuasi copper and Kumba iron-ore operations and the suspension of operations at the Grosvenor metallurgical coal mine," he adds.
Copper production increased by 6% to 167 800 t as Los Bronces secured access to industrial water for processing, while Collahuasi delivered record production for the 12-month period, which more than offset planned maintenance in the quarter.
Production at Los Bronces increased by 34% to 95 900 t for the quarter, while output at the Collahuasi mine decreased by 18% to 59 200 t.
Production at El Soldado, in Chile, also decreased by 15% to 12 700 t.
Anglo maintains its 2021 copper output guidance at between 640 000 t and 680 000 t.
Meanwhile, iron-ore production decreased by 11% year-on-year to 16.03-milltion tonnes, with production at the Kumba Iron Ore operations in South Africa down 19% to 9,57-million tonnes.
Production at Minas-Rio, however, increased by 5% to a record 6.5-million tonnes for the quarter.
Anglo expects to produce between 64-million and 67-million tonnes of iron-ore this year, with Kumba expected to produce between 40-million and 40-million tonnes and Minas-Rio between 24-million and 26-million tonnes.
Nickel production for the fourth quarter was flat at 11 700 t, which Anglo says reflects continued operational stability at its nickel operations. Nickel output for 2021 is expected to be between 42 000 t and 44 000 t.
Manganese ore production increased by 4% to 942 400 t in the fourth quarter, which Anglo attributes to a stronger mining performance and higher concentrator yield in Australia.
Manganese alloy production, however, decreased by 54% to 14 600 t, as the smelter in South Africa remained on care and maintenance since the Covid-19 lockdown started in late March 2020. Production was also negatively impacted on by an unplanned furnace outage in Australia.
Export metallurgical coal production decreased by 33% to 4.2-million tonnes in the fourth quarter, owing to the suspension of operations at the Grosvenor mine, in Australia, following an underground gas incident in May 2020, and lower production from Moranbah owing to geotechnical challenges.
Further, opencut operations have been scaled back at Dawson and Capcoal in response to reduced demand for lower-quality metallurgical coal, while Grasstree benefited from not having a longwall move.
The 2021 production guidance for metallurgical coal is unchanged at 18-million to 20-million tonnes.
Export thermal coal production in South Africa decreased by 10% to 4.1-million tonnes in the fourth quarter, with mines having continued to operate at about 90% of capacity owing to the impact of Covid-19 measures.
Attributable export thermal coal production in Colombia fell by 85% to 300 000 t for the quarter as a result of a three-month strike that ended early in December.
Anglo expects the South African operations to deliver about 16-million tonnes of export thermal coal this year, while the Colombian operations are expected to produce about eight-million tonnes.