Page last updated at 07:25 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Miner BHP to lay off 6,000 staff

BHP Billiton diamond mine in Northwest Territories, Canada.
BHP is cutting jobs and production.

The world's biggest mining group, BHP Billiton, says it plans to cut some 6,000 jobs worldwide to cope with falling demand for its products.

The lay-offs amount to some 6% of its 101,000-strong workforce and follow similar cuts by chief rival Rio Tinto.

It also said it will close its Ravensthorpe nickel mine in Australia due to poor profitability prospects.

The announcement underscores a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of mining companies as the downturn bites.

The price of nickel, used mainly in the production of stainless steel, has dropped as the once-insatiable demand for raw materials, particularly from China, has weakened.

In Australia, 3,400 jobs will be lost, another 2,000 in Chile and 550 at the Pinto Valley copper mine in the US.

In a statement, it also said it would cut production at its Mount Keith nickel mine, also in Australia.


In the statement, BHP Billiton said it would immediately start "the safe ramp down and indefinite suspension of the Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation".

"In addition, the rate of mining at the Mount Keith operation will be reduced in order to preserve its economic viability."

However, the company said it would maintain nickel concentrate output.

"We fully understand the impact that today's announcement has on our employees, contractors and their families," Jimmy Wilson, BHP's stainless steel materials president, said.

"These decisions are never easy but are the consequence of our long held practice of continually reviewing all of our operations to ensure that they are competitive," he added.

The price of nickel has dropped from some $51,000 (36,700) per metric ton in May 2007 to about $11,550 (8,300) per metric ton.

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