24 Aug 2012

BHP Billiton shelves expansion plans as profit drops

9:15 am on 24 August 2012

Mining giant BHP Billiton has shelved multi-billion-dollar mine expansion plans in Australia as it announced a profit drop of more than a third.

The company's full-year net profit of $US15.4 billion was a fall of 34.8%, in part attributed to a steep decline in commodity prices, the ABC reports.

BHP is putting on hold a $US30 billion expansion of the massive Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine in South Australia, saying it will investigate a new and cheaper design.

The company has also confirmed that its $20 billion Outer Harbour expansion at Port Hedland in Western Australia's Pilbara will not be approved for 12 months. A decision on the expansion had been due in December.

The decision to put the mine expansion on hold fanned the political debate surrounding the Australian government's controversial carbon and mining taxes.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has laid the blame for the decision at the feet of the government, saying thousands of jobs will be lost because of the changed investment climate created, in significant measure, by the new taxes.

BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers says however that the delay is due to rising costs and weaker commodity prices and has nothing to do with the mining tax, which does not apply to the copper, uranium or gold extracted from the site.