BHP Billiton, the world's largest miner, has reported its best half-year profit in two years and a hefty balance sheet.

The miner’s full-year profit more than doubled to $US12.7bn as sales rose 5.2% to $US52.8bn, the company said. In the second half alone, profit rose 47% after a sharp rebound in iron ore and copper prices.

It said: “With global steel production running ahead of real demand in the quarter ended June 2010, we expect output to soften from the record highs achieved in April this year. This will impact near term demand for steel making raw materials.

“However, the fundamentals remain strong in those commodities, particularly iron ore, where there is a lack of low cost supply response expected over the next one to two years.”

Exploration for iron ore, coal, bauxite, potash and manganese took place in Australia, Canada, South America, Russia and Africa.

Its iron ore EBIT was US$6.0bn, a decrease of 4% compared with the corresponding period. Record production and sales were the major positive contributors, adding US$546M.