File photo.

Resources giant BHP Billiton (BIL) says six major projects delivered first production in the 2012 financial year‚ while a total investment commitment of US$7.5bn enabled another eight major projects to move into execution.

Releasing its exploration and development report for the year ended June 2012‚ the group noted that in addition‚ US$2.7bn (BHP Billiton’s share) of pre-commitment funding was approved to further progress a series of development options.

“BHP Billiton’s proven strategy to invest in large‚ long-life‚ low-cost‚ expandable‚ upstream assets‚ diversified by commodity‚ geography and market‚ ensures we are well positioned to maintain strong momentum and returns in our major businesses‚ despite significant volatility in the external environment‚” it said.

The six projects to deliver first production were: Western Australia Iron Ore’s (WAIO’s) Rapid Growth Project 5 (iron ore); Antamina Expansion and Escondida Ore Access (both copper); Worsley Efficiency & Growth (alumina); North West Shelf CWLH Life Extension (oil); and the RX1 Project (energy coal).

The eight projects that moved into execution span the ferrous‚ nonferrous and energy product groups. They were: WAIO Orebody 24 (iron ore); Caval Ridge and Appin Area 9 (both metallurgical coal); Escondida Organic Growth Project 1 and Escondida Oxide Leach Area Project (both copper); North West Shelf Greater Western Flank-A (LNG); and Cerrejon P40 Project and the Newcastle Third Port Project Stage 3 (both energy coal).

During the June 2012 quarter‚ BHP Billiton announced approval of the Illawarra Coal Appin Area 9 project and pre-commitment funding of US$708m (BHP Billiton share) for the Mad Dog Phase 2 project in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico (oil and gas).

BHP Billiton’s Onshore US drilling and development expenditure totalled US$3.3bn in the 2012 financial year.

Greenfield exploration continued on copper targets in South America‚ nickel and copper targets in Australia‚ and iron ore and potash in a number of regions globally.

Minerals exploration expenditure for the 2012 year was US$1.1bn‚ of which US$0.9bn was expensed.

Petroleum exploration expenditure for the 2012 financial year was US$1.4bn‚ of which US$0.7bn was expensed. This included US$0.4bn of exploration expenditure in BHP’s recently acquired Onshore US business.

Permian Basin appraisal activities for the June 2012 quarter included the successful completion and testing of seven wells with commercial rates. Further success in the Permian Basin is expected to lead to an increase in development expenditure and an associated reduction in exploration expenditure. - I-Net Bridge