Diversified miner BHP Billiton says it continues to progress 19 major projects in various stages of development, which are largely low risk, brownfield expansions, and are expected to deliver first production before the end of the 2015 financial year.

The company noted that no new major projects were approved during the March 2013 quarter.

Meanwhile, BHP said its Queensland Coal operations achieved a significant milestone during the March 2013 quarter with first production achieved at the Daunia mine, ahead of schedule.

It said that the continued ramp up of this mine and future commissioning of Caval Ridge will underpin an expected increase in the capacity of the Queensland Coal business to 66 Mtpa (100% basis) by the end of the 2014 calendar year, while the Broadmeadow Life Extension project also achieved first production ahead of schedule.

BHP Billiton advised that the onshore US drilling and development expenditure totalled US$3.2 billion for the nine month period ended March 2013 and guidance for the 2013 financial year remains unchanged at US$4 billion. Over 80% of this expenditure will be focused on the liquids rich areas of the Eagle Ford and Permian.

The company also declared an Inferred Mineral Resource of 4 million t at an average grade of 3.5% nickel at the Venus prospect near Leinster, which forms part of its wholly owned Nickel West business in Western Australia.

BHP Billiton said that this new resource represents a significant body of komatiite hosted, nickel sulphide mineralisation. A drilling program to further define this nickel sulphide discovery is in progress, the company stated.

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