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Production Growth from Major Iron Ore Miners Continues Unabated

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BHP and RIO adding capacity

BHP Billiton’s (BHP) (BBL) production guidance for fiscal 2016, ending June 30, is an increase of 6% year-over-year (or YoY) to 247 million tons in 2015.

The company is relying on productivity enhancements as the only source of volume growth at Western Australia iron ore (or WAIO) in fiscal 2016. This should contribute to BHP’s iron ore annual production target of 290 million tons over time.

Rio Tinto’s (RIO) guidance for shipments is 340 million tons on a 100% basis for 2015. This is 10 million tons lower than the company’s previous guidance. However, the downgrade is mainly due to the weather-related issues in the first half of the year rather than any strategic change.

The company also guided for Pilbara production of 350 million tons in 2017. Other productivity improvements and debottlenecking should contribute toward full capacity utilization of 360 million tons per year over time.

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Vale’s S11D could be the game changer

Vale SA’s (VALE) production guidance for 2015 is 340 million tons. However, the company commented that for 2016, the production should be lower than its previous guidance of 376 million tons. The biggest iron ore expansion project currently under progress is Vale’s S11D project, located in the Carajás mining district in the Para region of Brazil.

The S11D project should increase the mining and processing capacity at Vale’s Carajás mining complex by 90 million tons per year to 450 million tons. This area is very rich in iron ore content and produces ~67% iron ore. The expected start date of the project is late 2016, but it should gradually reach its full capacity of 90 million tons.

When Vale’s S11D project comes online, it could be a further game changer in the iron ore market. Its cash costs per ton are pegged at close to $11 per ton. Vale SA forms 0.8% of the SPDR S&P Global Natural Resources ETF’s (GNR) holdings. Fortescue Metals Group (FSUGY) guides for a flat production of 165 million tons for fiscal 2016.

In the next part, we’ll discuss other greenfield projects undertaken by iron ore miners, which should add to the glut in the already oversupplied market.

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