Melbourne, Australia — 18 July 2013 – BHP Billiton Limited,  the world’s biggest mining company, says its fourth-quarter iron ore production gained 17% as the company expanded operations in Australia to deliver a 13th annual output record.

In a statement issued here, BHP said that production was 47.7 million metric tonnes in the three months ended June 30, from 40.9 million tonnes a year earlier. That beat the 43.2 million tonne median estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

The result compares with the 7% increase at Rio Tinto Group’s  iron ore operations, which also beat analyst estimates.

Growth in China, the biggest metals buyers, slowed for a second quarter, as the government reined in credit expansion to reduce the danger of a financial crisis, the statement added.

“There’s no doubt that while the rate of growth in China has slowed, the demand for iron ore continues to increase,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets Australia. “Those volume increases will at least to some extent offset the fall in revenues that comes from lower commodity prices.”

BHP shares gained 2.3% to A$34.19 at the close of trading in Sydney. Rio, the world’s second-largest miner, rose 1.1%.

The price of iron ore has dropped 18% since January, and is forecast to decline until at least 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“A strong year of production as two of our major assets, Western Australia Iron Ore and Escondida, exceeded production guidance, and annual records were achieved across seven operations and five commodities,” the BHP statement said.

While iron ore production beat estimates, the company’s total petroleum output of 59.2 million barrels of oil equivalent, up 5% from a year earlier, missed analyst guidance of 63.7 million barrels. Output of coking coal, BHP’s fourth-largest source of revenue, rose 34% to11 million tonnes. Copper gained 7% to 333,200 tonnes from higher production at the Escondida mine in Chile.

Source: Bloomberg News. For more information, click here.