South32 finishes year strong

Image shows aluminium smelter

Photo by Bloomberg

24th July 2023

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia


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PERTH ( – Triple-listed South32 has set three yearly production records during the year ended June, with growth in aluminium, copper and manganese reported.

“We had a strong finish to the year, with group copper equivalent production growing 9% in the quarter. Our strong operating results included record annual production at Hillside Aluminium, Australia Manganese and South Africa Manganese. Aluminium production increased by 14% and base metals production by 17% in the 2023 financial year, supported by our recent investments in commodities critical to a low-carbon future,” said CEO Graham Kerr.

Aluminium production in the full year increased by 14% on the previous financial year, to 1.13-million tonnes, with 286 000 t of that delivered in the fourth quarter, a 3% increase on the previous quarter.

The higher aluminium production was driven by record output from the Hillside aluminium smelter, as well as increased production from Brazil aluminium following the restart of all three potlines at the smelter.

Alumina production for the full year was down 4%, to 5.1-million tonnes, while the fourth-quarter production was up 1% on the previous quarter to 1.2-million tonnes.

South32 noted that full-year saleable production from Worsley alumina decreased by 4% in the quarter from the record levels achieved in 2022, while quarterly production increased by 12% as improved calciner availability supported above nameplate production rates. This was partially offset by a temporary bauxite conveyor outage.

Meanwhile, copper production in the full year increased by 179% on the previous financial year, to 70 700 t, with quarterly production up 12% to 17 300 t. Payable copper production from the Sierra Gorda operation, in which South32 holds a 45% interest, reached 86 200 t during the full year, and 22 300 t during the quarter.

South32 noted that the operation’s plant de-bottlenecking project is on-track to support an increase in plant throughput to 48-million tonnes to 49-million tonnes a year.

Manganese production for the full year ended June was up by 4% on the previous financial year, to 5.6-million tonnes, with fourth quarter production up 15% on the previous quarter, to 1.4-million tonnes.

Australia manganese saleable production increased by 5% to a record of 3.5-million tonnes in 2023, as improved yields supported higher primary concentrator output, while saleable production from South Africa manganese increased by 2% to a record 2.1-million tonnes, exceeding guidance by 5%.

Meanwhile, the miner on Monday reported that year-on-year production levels had fallen for silver, lead, zinc, nickel and metallurgical coal.

Silver production in the full year declined by 11%, to 11.8-million ounces, but was up by 42% in the June quarter to 3.5-million ounces, driven by output from Sierra Gorda and increased production from Cannington, which recovered from weather impacts in the third quarter of the 2023 financial year.

Lead production in the full year was down 16% to 101 700 t, but up 35% from the third quarter to reach 28 300 t in the June quarter, while zinc production in the full year was down 8% to 59 200, but recovered by 29% in the June quarter to 16 200 t. Nickel production in the full year was down 2% to 40 800, but remained stable in the June quarter at 10 200 t.

Metallurgical coal production in the full year was down 4%, to 5.4-million tonnes, but was 21% higher in the June quarter at 1.5-million tonnes on the back of improved longwall performance at the Appin mine within the Illawarra metallurgical coal profile.

“We maintained our disciplined track record of capital allocation, returning a record $1.2-billion to shareholders in 2023 while continuing to invest in our high-quality growth options,” Kerr told shareholders on Monday.

“Significant milestones were achieved at our Hermosa project, as we advanced our Taylor and Clark development options and returned exciting copper exploration results from our Peake prospect. Hermosa was also confirmed as the first mining project in the US to be covered by the FAST-41 process, underlining its potential to strengthen the domestic supply of critical minerals.

“We progressed our greenfield exploration programmes, exercising our earn-in right to acquire a 50.1% interest in the Chita Valley copper exploration project, located in Argentina’s highly prospective San Juan mineral belt.

“Looking forward, we are well placed to continue to capitalise on the global energy transition. We expect to deliver further production growth in aluminium and base metals in 2024, and our high-quality development options have the potential to further strengthen our long-term supply of critical minerals.”


Edited by Creamer Media Reporter




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