If you dig a hole in the ground somewhere in Iraq, keep an eye out for that $6.6 billion in airlifted $100 bills that vanished several years back.
Digging profitably here in the Americas, Teck Resources (NYSE: TCK ) excavated a cool $1 billion in operating cash flow during the first quarter of 2012, representing a 14% increase over the prior-year mark during a challenging time for the industry at large.
While Appalachian coal miners Patriot Coal (NYSE: PCX ) and Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR ) were busy scaling back production of metallurgical coal in response to some near-term market weakness, Teck continued full steam ahead and grew met coal production by 43% to 6.3 million tons. That boldness paid off, as the miner realized an average price of $223 per ton that was 8% higher than the price a year earlier. Moreover, that powerful combination of sharply higher volume and stronger pricing helped to shield Teck's result from year-over-year declines in realized prices for copper, zinc, and molybdenum.
Teck has buyers in place already during the second quarter for 6.3 million tons at a still-respectable price of $202 per ton, and expects to "conclude additional sales over the course of the quarter as demand has improved and supplies, particularly from Australia, have been constrained." Torrential rains in Australia have hampered met production there for the second year in a row, contributing to weakness in shares of competitor Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU ) that I believe represent a phenomenal bargain.
Teck booked $504 million in adjusted net profit from record first-quarter revenue of $2.5 billion. With cash on hand of $3.8 billion, Teck appears well positioned to mull some of the exciting growth opportunities on its plate. After a slight delay, Copper Fox Metals (OTC: CPFXF.PK) expects to deliver a feasibility study on the Schaft Creek project sometime this summer, which will trigger a decision by Teck regarding several attractive earn-in options.
While I find value deep beneath many of the rocks I turn over in the mining industry lately, Teck's value proposition stares investors in the face with a market capitalization that is beneath the recorded value of its consolidated property, plant, and equipment assets! Recalling that the company produced $1 billion in operating cash flow during the first quarter alone, I think that's just about enough said. Reflecting my staunchly bullish long-term outlook on the stock, I have added a bullish CAPScall for Teck Resources to my Motley Fool CAPS portfolio to reflect my real-life holding of the stock.