SYDNEY, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Stronger coal and manganese prices lifted half-year underlying earnings from continuing operations at Australia's South32 18-fold to $479 million from a year earlier, beating market expectations.
The miner, built around a group of unwanted assets spun-off by BHP Billiton , also declared its first interim dividend of 3.6 U.S. cents a share.
"The disciplined application of our strategy and stronger commodity prices underpinned a significant improvement in financial performance," Chief Executive Graham Kerr said in a statement.
South32's share price has more than doubled over the past year, aided by the timely acquisition of a metallurgical coal mine in Australia from Peabody Energy.
The miner also enjoyed surging manganese and metallurgical coal prices - up 300 percent and 200 percent respectively in 2016 - but prices are now in decline.
So far this year, manganese is down 41 percent from its 2016 peak, while metallurgical coal is off 47 percent.
Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Richard Pullin