BHP quarterly iron ore hits record, floods knock coal

SYDNEY, Jan 20 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton , the world’s biggest mining company, posted a 4 percent rise in quarterly iron ore output to meet rising demand for industrial raw materials but coal production underperformed due to flooding in Australia.

“Queensland Coal (Australia) production was significantly affected by the persistent rain and flooding that impacted the Bowen Basin during the period,” BHP Billiton said, adding output of coal dropped 30 percent versus the previous quarter.

Iron ore is expected to account more than $5 billion in first-half earnings for Melbourne-based BHP Billiton, nearly three times forecast EBIT earnings from coal mining.

Spot iron prices .IO62-CNI=SI are trading at 8-month peaks and prices for copper , also a BHP staple, are at record highs.

Aluminium production was in line with previous comparable quarters, BHP data showed.

Aluminum prices , which slumped dramatically during the global recession, rose 11 percent last year -- 5 percent in the December quarter alone -- and are now near a two-year peak.

Rival Rio Tinto on Tuesday also reported record iron ore production after running its mines at peak rates in 2010. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Ed Davies)