Archive | BHP Billiton

COLUMN-BHP, Rio gamble on iron ore, but they’ve stacked the deck – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – July 18, 2013)

Clyde Russell is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own.

LAUNCESTON, Australia, July 18 (Reuters) – Ramping up output in the face of an expected easing in demand growth may seem like an odd tactic for a miner, but it’s exactly what Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are doing in iron ore.

The world’s second- and third-ranked producers both said this week that their expansion plans are on track, notwithstanding the expected slowdown in China, which buys about two-thirds of global seaborne iron ore supply.

But there is method in the seeming madness of increasing production when the demand outlook is less than rosy. Both Rio and BHP are effectively betting that their low-cost operations in Australia will be able to dominate the market, squeezing out both Chinese domestic production and higher-cost mines elsewhere in Australia and around the globe.

They are also betting that the fears of a slowdown in Chinese demand growth are being overstated, and that import volumes will remain healthy. While these may look like risky assumptions for the two Anglo-Australian mining giants, they stand a good chance of being correct. Continue Reading →

Copper: The metal that will build our future? – by Cole Latimer (Australian Mining – July 16, 2013)

As we slowly come off the back of the mining boom, a number of questions are starting to be asked. Has the boom been played out, where to next, what will happen to iron ore? But what all are asking is what will be the metal of the future? What should we be digging that will provide the greatest return?

Perhaps the future is a metal which is a major part of humanity’s past – copper. Iron ore has been the metal that really drove Australia’s mining boom. It was the hero of the hour.

On the back of seemingly unending demand from Asia to fuel the growth of China we saw commodity prices skyrocket and essentially drag our nation out of the Global Financial Crisis.

Coal was also surging head, as both China and India required the energy needed to turn them into first world nations. As
a background to this gold prices also spiked, reaching never before seen heights.

But now the good times are over for these metals and the prices have steadily dropped, stabilising at more reasonable levels, or in some cases plummeting to just above cost levels. Continue Reading →

UPDATE 3-Big iron ore miners go for volume even as glut looms – by James Regan (Reuters U.S. – July 17, 2013)

SYDNEY, July 17 (Reuters) – Record iron ore output from BHP Billiton and other mining giants appears to defy logic, with demand for the steel-making raw material cooling in top customer China and a price-eroding supply glut looming.

But the sector’s heavy guns are digging more for less to tighten their stranglehold on the world’s second-biggest commodity market, as competitors struggle.

In mining parlance, this is known as a “rebalancing” strategy, designed to improve the operating margins of the majors to such an extent that smaller competitors or new projects may be all but squeezed out.

“The majors want to maximise those economies of scale,” said MineLife sector analyst Gavin Wendt. “As long as they keep margins well ahead of a declining iron ore price, they are winning.” BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group, with their iron ore operations in Australia, and Brazil’s Vale are leading the charge.

Seaborne-traded iron ore prices, which have lost 10 percent so far this year, are forecast to hit their lowest in four years by the end of 2013 as these big miners dig deeper and faster. Continue Reading →

Mettle of big miners’ austerity to be tested – by Matt Chambers (The Australian – July 15, 2013)

THE nation’s biggest resource companies release quarterly reports this week in the first chance for investors to gauge progress in the big miners’ self-proclaimed new era of spending restraint and productivity.

BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Woodside Petroleum and Santos will report production, and energy firms revenue, from what has been a weaker quarter than it could have been from the nation’s resource-rich Pilbara in Western Australia. Rio and BHP experienced a very wet dry-season month of June in the Pilbara.

This is understood to have affected production from Rio, which reports tomorrow, and is likely to drag down its regional production, including minority partners’ interests, by a couple of million tonnes from the 61 million analysts had forecast.

Data from Rio’s Dampier and Cape Lambert ports in the Pilbara compiled by Credit Suisse backs this up, showing June exports this year were at their lowest in four years for the traditionally strong month. BHP, which reports on Wednesday, is said to have been hit to some extent.

While any impacts will be unwelcome, they are unlikely to worry investors and will be seen as one-offs that have a good chance of being compensated for over the rest of the calendar year. Continue Reading →

Environmental headwinds buffet BHP in Colombia – by Brian Robins (Sydney Morning Herald – July 1, 2013)

In the wake of heightened environmental sensitivities to the activities of mining companies in Latin America, BHP Billiton’s plans to expand a nickel mine in Columbia have been blocked.

Governments in the region from Chile to Argentina have forced several global mining companies to rethink mine applications in response to growing criticism over the industry’s rising incursions.

Late last week, Colombia’s environmental licensing authority, Autoridad Nacional de Licencias Ambientales, turned down a request from BHP Billiton’s Cerro Matoso nickel mine to expand the site, according to wire reports. Cerro Matoso is the second largest producer of ferro nickel globally.

The request was denied because existing environmental permits cannot be modified to enable mining projects to be expanded, the environmental authority said.

The BHP Billiton project, which has operated for many years, produced more than 47,000 tonnes of nickel last year. The mine taps a laterite nickel deposit that is used as feedstock at a ferro-nickel smelter nearby. Most nickel is used to produce stainless steel. Continue Reading →

RPT-BHP entry threatens creaking global potash duopoly – by Ron Bousso and Polina Devitt (Reuters U.K. – June 10, 2013)

(Reuters) – The prospect of new competition from miner BHP Billiton could dynamite the cracks appearing in a potash duopoly that accounts for 70 percent of global trade in the fertiliser.

For decades two export groups, Belarus Potash Company (BPC), which represents producers in Russia and Belarus, and Canpotex, its North American equivalent, have set identical prices in key markets such as China and India and have often curbed output simultaneously.

That choreography, which smaller players also dance in step with, is already under fire; four producers in the groups – BPC’s Uralkali, and Canpotex’s three members Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, Agrium and Mosaic – recently agreed to pay over $100 million to settle a U.S. antitrust lawsuit accusing them of concerted action to raise prices.

Canpotex and BPC did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but the producers have denied the accusations, and Uralkali said “potash producers and traders do not agree with each other on prices and pursue their own pricing policies”. Their footwork has also faltered under the strain of falling prices in recent months, and the music could stop altogether if BHP goes ahead with the 8 million tonne per year Jansen mine in western Canada, which would be the world’s largest potash mine if it opens as scheduled in 2017.

Continue Reading →


Above video from the Brisbane Times website:



London – 6 June 2013

Tonight I amhere to talk about our global industry: where we have come from; where we are today; and where we are going.

Mining was a low-growth businessfor much of the 20th century so we were caught off-guard by the pace of China’s early-21st century urbanisation and industrialisation. It has changed our industry: Continue Reading →

More ‘tough love’ in store at BHP – by Brian Robins (Sydney Morning Herald – May 30, 2013)

BHP Billiton has flagged its coal division is in for more ”tough love” as it puts underperforming mines on the block and winds back capital spending against the backdrop of a tough global market which is not expected to turn up any time soon.

BHP has forced suppliers to renegotiate contracts following a collapse in earnings of the division, which is barely breaking even following a sustained profit slide over the past few years.

Believed to be on the block is the Gregory coking coal mine in Queensland, which was partly shut down last year due to low coal prices. It has also shut the Norwich Park mine nearby as it moves to ”simplify” its portfolio.

BHP is also negotiating with the Navajo Nation over the sale of its mine in New Mexico, US, which, according to reports, could raise an estimated $US85 million.

”We will selectively pursue asset divestment opportunities with a firm focus on value,” BHP told analysts on Wednesday. ”Assets must earn their right to remain in the portfolio.” Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Commodity companies’ cost-cutting stampede yet to work – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.K. – May 20, 2013)

Clyde Russellis a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own.

LAUNCESTON, Australia, May 20 (Reuters) – If you ever needed an example of the corporate herd mentality, then look no further than the stampede of cost-cutting among commodity producers started by BHP Billiton.

Since the Anglo-Australian miner moved last August to scrap or delay projects and slash operating costs, mining and energy companies have been rushing to do the same.

In the past few months, no less than $15 billion of cuts in capital and operating expenditures have been announced, and this is likely just a small percentage of reductions still to come.

What started as concern among investors in BHP Billiton and its fellow Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto over excessive capex amid slowing demand growth for commodities from top consumer China has spread across the world.

In recent weeks several Canadian miners have announced cuts to capex, and newly-merged Glencore Xstrata has promised aggressive cost-cutting, with some investors confident it will exceed its target of $500 million in reductions. Continue Reading →

New era of austerity at BHP -by Barry Fitzgerald (The Australian – May 10, 2013)

BHP Billiton’s new chief executive Andrew Mackenzie has launched the world’s biggest resources group on a relentless productivity drive, aimed at improving shareholder returns against a backdrop of fading commodity prices.

Mr Mackenzie formally takes the reins at BHP today, with the Scottish polyglot and sometime saxophone player spending the day at BHP’s iron ore operations in the Pilbara.

He replaces the man who hand-picked him as a likely successor more than five years ago, the vegetarian Afrikaner Marius Kloppers, known as much for his safe hands during the global financial crisis as his idiosyncratic tendencies.

Speaking to The Australian before his first day as chief executive, Mr Mackenzie said there would be no big-bang change in BHP’s strategy. It would evolve over time under his leadership, but securing productivity improvements was the immediate focus, replacing the previous focus on production growth.

“Ultimately, we won’t be changing much of it at all. We will probably just be even more clear that our future prosperity is going to be based on a small number of world-class tier-one orebodies,” Mr Mackenzie said. “We are likely to invest less, and therefore the principal way we intend to grow the returns from our businesses is by driving productivity.” Continue Reading →

BHP nets $650m on sale of Arizona mine – by Allan Seccombe (Business Day – April 30, 2013)

BHP Billiton, the world’s largest resources group, has sold a small, noncore copper mine in Arizona and an associated railway company for $650m, bringing its sale of assets in the past year to $5bn, BHP announced on Monday.

Analysts widely expect further asset sales from Australia-based BHP after Marius Kloppers stepped down as CEO. He was replaced by Andrew Mackenzie who has said he will focus on securing profit margins and cash flows by ensuring optimal performances from the group’s assets.

BHP sold Pinto Valley and the San Manuel Arizona Railroad Company to Canada’s Capstone Mining for $650m in cash in a deal subject to regulatory approval. The transaction should be concluded in the second half of this year.

“The sale of Pinto Valley is an excellent outcome for BHP Billiton shareholders,” Peter Beaven, president of BHP Billiton Copper, said yesterday. “It is consistent with our strategy and it takes the transaction value of divestments announced over the last 12 months to $5bn.”

Analysts said the price was well above what the market was expecting and that it was no surprise BHP was selling the business because of its small size and limited remaining life. Continue Reading →

Colombian miners hit out at Anglo American – by John Vidal (The Guardian – April 15, 2013)

The joint owners of the Cerrejón opencast mine will be accused at its annual meeting of jeopardising the health of 13,000 people

Communities from Colombia, Mongolia, South Africa and the US will demonstrate in London this week against some of the world’s largest mining companies, which they say are devastating the health of people, widely polluting the environment and forcing communities to move.

Anglo American, joint owners of the giant Cerrejón opencast coal mine in northern Colombia with BHP Billiton and Xstrata, will be accused at its annual meeting on Friday of jeopardising the health of the 13,000 people who live or work close to the operation that provides coal for power stations in Britain and Europe.

“We have had to suffer the impacts of opencast coal mining for over 25 years now. Our communities have been gradually and systematically asphyxiated by the contamination caused by coal mining, our societies [have been] fractured,” said Julio Gomez, president of Fecodemigua, the Federation of Communities Displaced by Mining in La Guajira, in London.

Around 500m of the total estimated 5bn tonnes of coal have been mined from Cerrejón since it opened in 1985, but the largest mine in Latin America plans to increase production by 25% in the next three years. Continue Reading →

Jansen project seeking green light from BHP board – by Pav Jordan (Globe and Mail – April 15, 2013)

Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Saskatchewan’s giant Jansen potash project seems just a signature away from final approval, but don’t hold your breath on a decision from the board of BHP Billiton Ltd.

The world’s largest miner is working on the production and service shafts, which are the longest lead items of potash-mine development. The $14-billion project still needs a green light on design engineering after deciding to double initial output on Jansen.

“We are finalizing this design engineering as part of the Jansen project feasibility study, which will be presented to the BHP Billiton board,” said company spokesman Ruban Yogarajah. “While this occurs, we will finish building the camp and continue shaft excavation and site preparation.”

Once built, Jansen is expected to be the world’s largest potash mine, dwarfing even those of BHP’s nearest rival, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., which has mines nearby.

The mine, set in flat prairie lands about 150 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon, is a bet by BHP Billiton that potash, a crop nutrient, will become the world’s most important mined commodity as global food demand rises with new demand from emerging economies, where increasing affluence is changing eating habits. Continue Reading →

Billiton weighs mine expansion – by Scott Larson (Saskatoon Star Phoenix – April 11, 2013)

BHP Billiton still has plenty of work to do on its proposed $12-billion Jansen potash project before it can take the next step and submit the project to its board for final approval. The Australian mining giant has said it will hold off giving the green light to any major new projects, including Jansen, until at least June 30.

At a Bloomberg conference in Sydney on Wednesday, BHP’s chief financial officer, Graham Kerr, indicated the Jansen project could be presented to the board in the next financial year. That means the Jansen project could go before the board early as this July or as late as June 2014.

A recent story in the Sydney Morning Herald said Jansen is “likely to be among those considered first” once the freeze has been lifted.

BHP spokeswoman Bronwyn Wilkinson said there is still a substantial amount of work to be done and no time frame has been set as to when the Jansen project will be presented to the board for approval.

“The Jansen project is in feasibility study phase and remains subject to BHP Billiton board sanction,” Wilkinson said. BHP’s decision to increase Jansen’s first phase from its initial production of two million tonnes per annum (2mtpa) of potash to at least 4mtpa “requires extensive additional engineering design, particularly on the surface infrastructure.” Continue Reading →

Iron Ore Bear Market Looms as Supply Swamps Demand: Commodities – by Phoebe Sedgman ( – April 4, 2013)

Iron ore is heading toward its first surplus in at least a decade as output expands and Chinese steel mills, the biggest buyers, boost production at the slowest pace in five years.

Seaborne supply will advance 9.1 percent and demand 8.3 percent in 2013, led by exporters from Perth-based Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (FMG) to Vale SA (VALE5), Morgan Stanley forecasts. A surplus will emerge in 2014 and keep widening until at least 2018, the bank predicts. Prices will slump as much as 34 percent to $90 a ton by the end of December, according to the median of seven analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Exports of the biggest seaborne cargo after oil are surging the most since 2010 after prices jumped as much as sevenfold in the past nine years. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. expects China’s imports to climb 4 percent in 2013, the least in three years. Its steel output will expand 2.6 percent as the nation’s economy grows at the second-slowest pace in the past decade, according to estimates from Morgan Stanley and economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

“We’ve got a steady lift of supply, mainly out of Australia,” said Tom Price, the Sydney-based analyst at UBS AG who has covered the market for about a decade. “We’ve observed for a couple of years now moderation in demand growth in China. A combination of those two is why we’re bearish.” Continue Reading →