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BHP Billiton hikes production

SYDNEY, Oct 20 – The world\’s biggest miner BHP Billiton Wednesday reported a boost in iron ore output and production records in petroleum and natural gas in a "strong" quarter.

BHP said it increased output of 11 commodities in the three months to September and expressed confidence about its outlook thanks to strong demand including from China and India.

"Despite ongoing uncertainty in the developed world, BHP Billiton remains positive on the prospects for many of its core commodities and the underlying performance of its business, due to strength in the emerging economies and the ongoing delay in the supply side response," BHP said.

The results come amid a hostile 40 billion US dollar takeover tussle for Canada\’s Potash Corp and follows BHP\’s abandonment this week of a 116 billion US dollar iron ore tie-up with rival Rio Tinto on regulatory concerns.

BHP produced 32.0 million tonnes of iron ore in the quarter, a six percent increase on the same period in 2009 and two percent higher than the preceding three months.

Metallurgical coal, a key ingredient for China\’s rapacious steel mills, grew 10 percent on-year to 10.3 million tonnes on strong demand. The result was six percent lower than the previous quarter due to weather and maintenance issues.

Coal used for electricity generation was five percent lower than a year earlier at 17.1 million tonnes, but BHP said it was an improvement on the previous quarter due to an expansion in South Africa.

BHP booked a record 43.9 million barrels of oil, a three percent increase on-year, despite the suspension of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, as cold weather stoked gas demand in eastern Australia.

"The drilling moratorium has impacted our operations in the Gulf of Mexico," BHP said. "Our current expectation is that production volumes for the 2011 financial year will be in line with the 2010 financial year."

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