LONDON --BHP Billiton (LSE: BLT.L) updated the market on its latest production figures today with a pretty strong performance across the board. The highlight was iron ore, which accounts for about half of the mining giant's profit. Here, BHP Billiton reported record production for the 12th consecutive year.

Iron ore production came to 159.5 million tonnes in total, up an impressive 19% over last year's performance, thanks to a new processing facility and investment in rail and sea distribution facilities. A further 5% production increase is expected in the coming year, but, like its rival Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton has big plans to expand its production of iron ore over the long term.

BHP's second-largest division is now oil and gas, where it has recently bulked up by spending $20 billion on acquiring Petrohawk and some assets from Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK). These acquisitions led to a 40% overall increase in production levels, although worries persist about the low level of natural gas prices in the U.S., given the huge investment BHP has made in this area.

BHP's third- and fourth-largest divisions are base metals and coal. Although there was a small decrease in base metal production, there was a similar-sized increase in coal.

There was little to surprise investors overall in this release, so BHP shares were largely unchanged this morning, slipping just 0.5% to 1,775 pence.

Thanks to lower commodity prices, BHP is expected to report a drop in profits when it releases its full-year results on Aug. 22. Post-tax earnings are forecast to drop from $23 billion last year to around $18 billion, putting the shares on a price-to-earnings ratio of around 8.5 times, with a dividend yield project to be around 4%.

Many mining shares have been great performers over the last decade or so. But if you're keen on spotting the growth stars of tomorrow, then make sure you get this free Motley Fool report -- "10 Steps to Making a Million in the Market."

Further Motley Fool investment opportunities: