BHP to cut 6000 jobs worldwide amid downturn

January 22, 2009

BHP Billiton will axe 6000 people from its global workforce amid the economic downturn.

The company said today it would cut its 101,000 strong global workforce by about six per cent in response to world-wide economic conditions.

“This is very serious types of decisions and we don’t take them lightly, but at the end they are necessary and they are the correct decisions,” BHP Billiton chief financial officer Alex Vanselow told reporters on a conference call.

BHP Billiton will suspend operations at the Ravensthorpe nickel mine and reduce output at its Mount Keith mine in Western Australia, resulting in the loss of 2100 contractor and employee jobs.

In addition, the company will slash about 550 jobs at Pinto Valley in the US, 200 jobs at the Olympic Dam expansion project in South Australia and 2000 jobs at base metals in Chile.

BHP Billiton has estimated the job cuts will result in a one-off total cost of about $US500 million ($772.6 million).

BHP Billiton is cutting coking coal production in Queensland by about 10 to 15 per cent in response to reduced demand.

“It will be something like four to six million tonnes (per year), our share,” Mr Vanselow told reporters.

There was uncertainty in the medium term outlook, he said.

But BHP Billiton had a strong balance sheet to see out the turmoil in financial and commodity markets, he said.

“The balance sheet allows us to continue investing like we’re doing in iron ore, in petroleum, in other commodities, and we are prepared for, on an opportunistic basis, to look at acquisitions,” Mr Vanselow said.

BHP Billiton today released its second quarter report for the 2009 financial year and delivered an increase in iron ore output but unveiled further writedowns to its nickel business.

Mr Vanselow said the Ravensthorpe nickel mine was not likely to be cash positive in the medium term.

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