LONDON (Reuters) - Miner Glencore Xstrata met market forecasts with an 18 percent increase in copper production in the first quarter of 2013, as new operations expand to substitute depleted mines and output climbs at the trader's legacy operations in Congo.
In the first production statement since Glencore merged with Xstrata, the group gave only a brief overview of its closely watched marketing division, telling investors it had performed "broadly in line with our expectations".
In brief comments on the specific divisions, Glencore said trading in metals and minerals delivered "solid results" and energy - oil and coal - saw "markedly improved profitability".
Agricultural products, however "made a slow start to the year, in what is often a seasonally weaker quarter".
Among the diversified miners, Glencore Xstrata has the biggest exposure to copper. It produced 321,800 tonnes of the red metal in the three months.
African copper alone - key to Glencore's plans before the merger, and set to benefit from increased Congolese output - rose 44 percent on a year ago. Glencore said the two expansion projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, at its Katanga and Mutanda operations, remained on track to complete this year.
Zinc output, a key source of revenue for the combined group, totalled 386,900 tonnes in the quarter, ahead of expectations and 11 percent increase on last year, as Glencore's Rosh Pinah mine in Nambia offset the closure of Xstrata mines in Canada.
Nickel - which will benefit from the start of Xstrata's Koniambo greenfield mine in New Caledonia last month - rose 4 percent in the quarter to 25,500 tonnes.
Coal, meanwhile, was broadly flat on a year ago, with production at 32.7 million tonnes, weaker as the impact of the 32-day strike at Colombia's Cerrejon was offset by the ongoing expansion of the Prodeco coal mines.
Reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques; Editing by Kate Holton