The axe remains suspended over 3300 BHP jobs as the mining giant warns of months before a decision on loss-making nickel operations, but NSW coal production is on the up.

In an operational update issued on Thursday, BHP said it expected to decide on the longer-term future of Western Australian nickel operations by the annual results due in August.

BHP reiterated an earlier warning it was considering placing Nickel West into a period of care and maintenance and reviewing the development of the West Musgrave project.

Severe weather in March and planned maintenance at the Kwinana refinery also affected nickel volumes, which fell four per cent to 19 kilotonnes in the quarter compared to the last three months of 2023.

Heavy rain affected iron ore, but guidance for full-year iron ore production was unchanged.

“We remain on track to meet copper, iron ore and energy coal production for the year,” CEO Mike Henry said.

Energy coal production surged 23 per cent to 11.6 mt as domestic sales began under the NSW government coal market price controls during the January to March quarter.

The state government has directed BHP’s New South Wales Energy Coal (NSWEC), usually an exporter, to deliver at least 175,000t per quarter at a price cap of A$125/t.

BHP said the approval process for extending NSWEC’s production would continue into FY25.

Existing consent only provides approval for mining at Mount Arthur until 2026, but BHP has applied to extend operations to 2030.

At metallurgical coal operations in Queensland, significant wet weather – including two tropical cyclones – and operational challenges impacted production and increased costs, BHP said.

Production fell 16 per cent and guidance for the year was cut to 21.5 to 22.5 Mt from 23 to 25 Mt.

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