Gross profit before depreciation and amortization from our copper business unit decreased by $27 million in the first quarter compared with a year ago primarily as a result of lower copper prices and reduced by-product revenues. This was partially offset by lower operating costs. Copper production in the first quarter of 83,000 tonnes was down 19% from the record in the fourth quarter of 2012, but was slightly higher than the same period a year ago. Substantially higher production from Highland Valley Copper, as a result of mining higher grade sections of the Valley pit, was offset by lower production from Antamina and Quebrada Blanca as anticipated in each respective mine plan. Copper prices softened by 5% from a year ago and averaged US$3.60 per pound in the first quarter of 2013. Total unit cash costs of product sold in the quarter, before by-product credits, was US$2.06 per pound compared with US$2.13 per pound in the first quarter of 2012. Total cash unit costs after by-product credits was US$1.61 per pound compared with US$1.51 per pound in the first quarter of 2012 as a result of lower molybdenum and silver by-product credits. Capitalized stripping costs in our copper business unit totaled $60 million (US$0.34 per pound) in the first quarter compared with $37 million (US$0.21 per pound) in the first quarter of 2012.
Gross profit before depreciation and amortization from our coal business unit declined by $187 million in the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago primarily due to lower coal prices, partially offset by higher sales volumes. Coal sales of 6.6 million tonnes in the first quarter were 24% higher than the same period last year and set a new first quarter sales record. The average coal price of US$161 per tonne in the first quarter was 28% lower than the same quarter a year ago and reflects the weaker steelmaking coal market conditions. Sales in the quarter reflected our typical sales distribution. Record volumes were partly attributable to starting the year with a large number of vessels at anchor due to the Westshore Berth 1 outage, which occurred in early December. Production of 6.2 million tonnes in the first quarter was largely unchanged from the same period a year ago, as production has been aligned with anticipated customer demand. The cost of product sold in the first quarter, before transportation and depreciation charges, was $47 per tonne, or $12 per tonne lower than in the same quarter in 2012. In the current period, $140 million of production costs were capitalized in accordance with the accounting standard for stripping costs compared with $142 million in the same period a year ago. Transportation costs increased by $2 per tonne in the first quarter to $36 per tonne, primarily due to higher demurrage charges incurred throughout the quarter resulting from the Westshore Berth 1 outage.
Gross profit before depreciation and amortization from our zinc business unit rose slightly from a year ago. Production volumes at both Trail and Red Dog in the first quarter were similar to the same period a year ago. Trail's contribution to gross profit remained the same as lower sales volumes of refined zinc and lead were offset by increased silver volumes and higher lead prices. Gross profit improved at Red Dog as a result of slightly lower operating costs compared with a year ago. This was despite zinc sales volumes decreasing by 11% in the quarter as customers had accelerated purchases in the first quarter of 2012. Zinc prices in the first quarter remained the same as last year at US$0.92 per pound, while lead prices rose by 9% to US$1.04 per pound in the first quarter of 2013.
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