Copper and gold rush helps Oz Minerals to record profit

Strong copper prices and increasing production has helped South Australian miner Oz Minerals to a record net profit of $531 million for the 2021 calendar year, as it unveils plans to slash carbon emissions by 2030.

Feb 22, 2022, updated Feb 22, 2022
Workers at Oz Minerals' Prominent Hill mine.

Workers at Oz Minerals' Prominent Hill mine.

But the company has warned that COVID-19 impacts on its workforce and severe flooding in the north of South Australia have led to a much slower start to 2022.

Oz Minerals, which operates the Prominent Hill and Carrapateena copper-gold mines in SA’s north generated $2.1 billion in revenue for the year on the back of copper prices that were 42 per cent higher than in 2020, while gold prices were up 1 per cent.

The price rise was also helped by a 30,000-tonne increase in copper sales and an additional 12,000 ounces of gold sales.

However, the positive financial result was overshadowed by the fatal injury to a Byrnecut underground employee at Prominent Hill in September.

An investigation into the death is expected to be completed in the coming months.

As part of its results announcement yesterday, Oz Minerals also announced that its shareholders would receive a fully franked final dividend of 18 cents per share to take its total 2021 dividends to 34 cents fully franked.

OZ Minerals Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Cole said the company met its operational targets while continuing to invest in expansions at both of its SA mines and progressing its West Musgrave project in Western Australia.

“Higher production volumes, with Carrapateena now fully contributing and gold stockpiles complementing Prominent Hill production, combined with effective cost control allowed, us to take full advantage of robust copper prices during the year,” Cole said in a statement to shareholders yesterday.

“These results were delivered notwithstanding a more difficult final quarter impacted by COVID related absenteeism which has continued into 2022.

“When combined with an extreme rain event that affected our South Australian logistics, we are likely to see a slower start to 2022 production, building back in line with full-year guidance as the year progresses.”

During 2021, the Adelaide-headquartered company invested $630 million in its long-term growth strategy, which includes a block cave expansion at Carrapateena and a major expansion at Prominent Hill.

It is also expected to make a final investment decision on the West Musgrave project in the second half of the year and has plans to expand its copper mining operation in Carajas, northern Brazil.

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“Looking ahead as we transition to living with COVID across the community we will be closely monitoring and managing potential supply chain interruptions and labour shortages along with the inflationary cost environment that we began to experience in Q4 2021,” Cole said.

Oz Minerals yesterday also published its first “Decarbonisation Roadmap”, which commits to halve scope 1 emissions by 2027 and achieve net-zero scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030.

“As a miner of copper and potentially nickel, which are both important minerals in global electrification activities, we are acutely aware of our responsibility to reduce emissions,” Cole said.

“Our Decarbonisation Roadmap outlines our current plans to contribute where we can have the greatest emissions reduction impact. As technology improves and we gain a greater understanding of what is possible via trials over the coming years we hope to be able to update and improve our emissions reduction plans.”

The record revenue of $2,096 million, was $754 million higher than the previous year, leading to the 150 per cent increase in net profit after tax from $213 million in 2020.

Copper production of 125,486 tonnes was led by Prominent Hill (63,000 tonnes), followed by Carrapateena (55,200 tonnes) and Carajas (7,300 tonnes).

Prominent Hill also produced the company’s most gold with 141,676 ounces compared to just under 90,000 oz at Carrapateena and almost 6000 oz in Brazil.

Oz Minerals formed in 2008 and began mining at Prominent Hill about 650km north of Adelaide in 2009.

It produced its first concentrate at Carrapateena, about 250km south-east of Prominent Hill, in late 2019.

The listed company’s share price has risen from about $10 three years ago to more than $26 today with a market capitalisation of $8.7 billion.

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