(Adds production details, CEO comment, industry background)
Oct 17 (Reuters) - The world’s biggest miner, BHP, said on Wednesday its first-quarter iron ore production rose 8 percent on strong Chinese demand for high-grade ore, but cut its fiscal 2019 guidance for copper production, citing outages at key mines.
BHP trimmed its 2019 copper production forecast by about 3 percent to a range of 1.62 million tonnes to 1.71 million tonnes, citing reduced production at its Spence and Olympic Dam mines in Chile and Australia, respectively.
The Olympic Dam mine was closed for repairs and is expected to resume operations by the end of this month, while operations at Spence continue at partial capacity following a fire in September.
Operations at Spence are expected to reach full capacity during December, the company said in a statement.
The outages also hurt production during the quarter, with copper output flat at 409,000 tonnes.
“We are on track to meet guidance for the 2019 financial year across our commodities, except copper where we have reduced production guidance slightly following outages at Olympic Dam in Australia and Spence in Chile,” Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie said.
BHP’s iron ore output rose to 69 million tonnes during the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with 64 million tonnes a year ago. That was in line with UBS’s estimate of 68.8 million tonnes.
The Anglo-Australian miner maintained its fiscal 2019 guidance of 273 million to 283 million tonnes of iron ore.
China’s iron ore imports this year have held remarkably steady, suggesting that demand by the world’s second-biggest economy has not been much affected by the trade dispute with the United States.
China buys just over half of Australia’s commodity exports.
Nickel production fell 8 percent after operations at the miner’s Kalgoorlie smelter in Australia were suspended following a fire in September. The smelter is expected to ramp back up to full production in early November. BHP maintained its production guidance for the year. (Reporting by Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru and Melanie Burton in Melbourne Editing by Chris Reese and Matthew Lewis)