Feb 28 (Reuters) - Australia on Tuesday nudged up its forecast for refined copper production in 2010/11 (July/June), as producers take advantage of record high prices to boost output.
But the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) sees stagnant growth in production after that.
The nation's copper producers are now expected to churn out 483,000 tonnes of copper in 2010/11, up from a December forecast of 475,000 tonnes, ABARES said in its latest quarterly outlook.
London Metal Exchange (LME) three-month copper last closed up $135 at $9,885 a tonne, just 3 percent away from its Feb. 15 record of $10,190.
Australian output has been boosted modestly after BHP Billiton resumed normal output at its Olympic Dam mine, which had been hit by a mechanical failure in late 2009 and early 2010, ABARES said.
BHP Billiton is studying a proposal that would lift annual production at the mine to 730,000 tonnes of copper, but has not provided any time frame.
National copper output is also benefiting from the restart of the Lady Annie and Leichardt solvent-extraction copper-making operations by Sci-Tech Holdings Ltd and Cape Lambert , respectively, ABARES said.
In 2010/11, Australia's total copper export volumes, which includes copper contained in ores and concentrates, are forecast by ABARES to increase by 14 percent to 893,000 tonnes, supported by higher exports of refined copper.
Refined copper production is projected to stabilise at around 500,000 tonnes after 2011/12, as no new refining capacity has been planned, it said.