Im­pala not a tar­get

Klop­pers has other pri­or­i­ties on his plate

Finweek English Edition - - Openers -

MAR­IUS KLOP­PERS, BHP Bil­li­ton CEO, has poured cold wa­ter on spec­u­la­tion that the group might bid for Im­pala Platinum (Im­plats), which re­cently boosted its share price 10% in one day’s trad­ing. Klop­pers ef­fec­tively ruled out a move on Im­plats due to his group’s cur­rent bid for Rio Tinto, as well as safety is­sues.

In re­ply to ques­tions, Klop­pers com­mented: “We’re kind of busy at present and fo­cused on the Rio Tinto bid as the main event. We have two tasks at hand: to run our base busi­nesses ef­fi­ciently and do this ( Rio Tinto) trans­ac­tion.”

Asked specif­i­cally about health and safety is­sues that might af­fect a po­ten­tial move into platinum min­ing, Klop­pers says BHP Bil­li­ton wants to run busi­nesses that could achieve a zero fa­tal­ity rate. He added that didn’t pre­vent BHP Bil­li­ton from get­ting into deep-level min­ing but it did ex­clude cer­tain types of min­ing meth­ods.

He cited the Olympic Dam base met­als/ura­nium mine in South Aus­tralia as an ex­am­ple of a deep-level mine that BHP Bil­li­ton was pre­pared to de­velop. It’s sig­nif­i­cant that Olympic Dam will be a highly mech­a­nised op­er­a­tion. “In platinum a mix of min­ing meth­ods is used, some of which will meet our safety re­quire­ments and some of which will not.” The most widely used min­ing method on SA’s platinum mines is con­ven­tional stop­ing, which is labour in­ten­sive.

Klop­pers didn’t spec­ify it but that’s pre­cisely the min­ing method BHP Bil­li­ton wants to avoid be­cause of the num­ber of work­ers ex­posed to safety risks at depth. The bulk of Im­plats’s min­ing op­er­a­tions are of that type.

BHP Bil­li­ton re­cently ap­pointed for­mer Im­plats CEO Keith Rum­ble as a non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, which got some ob­servers ex­cited. How­ever, an­a­lysts point out that be­fore join­ing Im­plats, Rum­ble had worked most of his ca­reer at Rio Tinto. They reckon that’s far more sig­nif­i­cant.

BREN­DAN RYAN bren­danr@fin­

Caused ex­cite­ment. Keith Rum­ble

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