“The South African operations achieved a fourth consecutive quarterly record,” the world’s largest diversified miner said in its production report for the quarter ended September 30.
BHP Billiton produced 27% more manganese this September quarter than in the September quarter of 2007.
The combined output from Hotazel, in South Africa, and Gemco, in Australia, was 1 830 000 t of manganese. Mainte- nance and tie-in activities for its expansion project impacted on Gemco production.
Manganese alloy production was up 10% at 203 000 t, higher than in both com- parative quarters, despite the impact of the mandatory 10% reduction in power consumption and load shedding in South Africa.
BHP Billiton manganese president Peter Beaven was mastermind- ing low risk, fast payback and high rates of return on a R750-million capital expansion of Hotazel and had also brought in large diesel generator sets from Australia to boost power supply.
BHP Billiton was also expand- ing its cogeneration facility in Meyerton, where Metalloys beneficiated manganese ore into manganese alloy.
More challenging, however, was the management of reduced energy to the company’s electrolytic manganese processing plant at MMC in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.
Beaven had also liaised intensely with Transnet for the required access to additional rail and port capacity in South Africa.
The Samancor manganese resource had increased to 473-million tons, the company said, owing mainly to the inclusion of the upper body at the Wessels mine and the top cut at the Mamatwan mine, along with the signing of the agreement with black economic- empowerment partner Ntsimbintle.
The company said in its latest quarterly report that Chinese growth had softened during the quarter, albeit from “very high” levels.
“We expect volatility and uncertainty to continue in the short term. Notwithstanding this short-term uncertainty, we remain confident that the ongoing indus- trialisation and urbanisation of China and other developing eco- nomies will continue to drive strong longer-term demand for our products.”