The world's biggest miner, BHP Billiton, said on Jan. 21 it would cut about 6,000 jobs because of the global economic downturn and weakening demand for its products. The cuts represent about 6% of the Anglo-Australian miner's global workforce of 41,000 employees and 60,000 contractors.
They include 3,400 jobs in Australia mostly in coal and nickel production, 2,000 base metals jobs in Chile and 550 positions at the Pinto Valley copper mine in the U.S.
BHP, which recently walked away from its hostile takeover bid for rival Rio Tinto citing the impact of the global financial crisis, said the cuts would mean a one-off cost of US$500 million.
The group said it would indefinitely suspend operations at its Ravensthorpe nickel project in western Australia, citing "diminished prospects for profitability" as the outlook for nickel continued to deteriorate.
A total 2,100 jobs will be lost as a result of the shutdown and the scaling back of operations at the Mount Keith nickel mine, with another 200 going at the Olympic Dam copper-uranium expansion project.
Releasing its half-year production results, BHP said the global economic environment deteriorated sharply in the last quarter of the 2008 calendar year, and it expected the market to remain "weak and uncertain." Aluminium and copper output were both weaker than a year ago, down 8% and 11% respectively on the same period last year.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009