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BHP Billiton is the world's largest mining company. It was created in 2001 by the merger of Australia's Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) and the UK's Billiton, which had a Dutch and South African background. The result is a dual-listed company with head offices in Melbourne and London. BHP Billiton Limited, which is the majority partner in the dual-listed structure, is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. BHP Billiton Plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.


Broken Hill Proprietary Company

The Broken Hill Proprietary Company or BHP was incorporated in 1885, operating the silver and lead mine at Broken Hillmarker in western New South Walesmarker. In 1915, the company ventured into steel manufacturing, with its operations based primarily in Newcastle, New South Walesmarker. The company's corporate offices are located in Melbourne, Victoria. It is also known by the nickname "the Big Australian".

The company began petroleum exploration in the 1960s with discoveries in Bass Straitmarker, an activity which became an increasing focus.

BHP began to diversify offshore in a variety of projects. One project was the Ok Tedi copper mine in Papua New Guineamarker, where the company was successfully sued by the indigenous inhabitants because of the environmental degradation caused by the mine operations. BHP had better success with the giant Escondidamarker copper mine in Chilemarker (57.5% owned) and the Ekati Diamond Minemarker in northern Canada.

The inefficiencies of what was, by global standards, a small steel operation in Newcastle finally caught up with the company and the Newcastle operations were closed in 1999. The 'long products' side of the steel business was spun off to form OneSteel in 2000.

In 2001, BHP merged with the Billiton mining company to form BHP Billiton, the largest mining company in the world. In 2002, the 'flat products' steel business was spun off to form BHP Steel. In 2003, BHP Steel changed its name to BlueScope Steel.


Billiton was a mining company whose origins stretch back to 29 September 1860, when the articles of association were approved by a meeting of shareholders in the Groot Keizerhof hotel in The Haguemarker, Netherlands.

Two months later, the company acquired the mineral rights to tin-rich islands of Bankamarker (Bangka) and Billitonmarker (Belitung) in the Indonesian archipelago, off the eastern coast of Sumatramarker.

Billiton's initial business forays included tin and lead smelting in The Netherlands, followed in the 1940s by bauxite mining in Indonesia and Surinamemarker. In 1970, Royal Dutch/Shell acquired Billiton and accelerated the scope of progress of this growth. The tin and lead smelter in Arnhemmarker, Netherlands was shut down in the 1990s.

In 1994 Gencor acquired the mining division of Billiton excluding the downstream metal division. Billiton was divested from Gencor in 1997. In 1997, Billiton Plc became a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
Throughout the 1990s and beyond, Billiton Plc experienced considerable growth. Its portfolio included aluminium smelters in South Africa and Mozambiquemarker, nickel operations in Australia and Colombiamarker, base metals mines in South America, Canada and South Africa, coal mines in Australia, Colombia and South Africa, as well as interests in operations in Brazilmarker, Suriname, Australia (aluminium) and South Africa (titanium minerals and steel and ferroalloys).

In 2001 Billiton Plc merged with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) to form BHP Billiton.

BHP Billiton Mergers and Acquisitions

In March 2005, Billiton announced a US$7.3 billion agreed bid for another mining company WMC Resources, owners of the Olympic Dammarker uranium mine in South Australiamarker, nickel operations in Western Australia and Queensland, and a fertiliser plant also in Queensland. The takeover achieved 90% acceptance on 17 June 2005, and 100% ownership was announced on 2 August 2005, achieved through compulsory acquisition of the last 10% of the shares.

On 8 November 2007, BHP Billiton announced it was seeking to purchase rival mining group Rio Tinto Group in an all-share deal. The initial offer of 3.34 shares of BHP Billiton stock for each share of Rio Tinto was rejected by the board of Rio Tinto for "significantly undervaluing" the company. It was unknown at the time if BHP Billiton would attempt to purchase Rio Tinto through some form of hostile takeover; however, CEO Marius Kloppers met with many of Rio's shareholders since the announcement and reiterated that the offer for Rio was "compelling" and that BHP Billiton is very "patient." A formal hostile bid of 3.4 BHP Billiton shares for each Rio Tinto share was announced on 6 February 2008. The bid was withdrawn on 25 November 2008 due to a global recession.

On 14 May 2008, BHP Billiton shares rose to a record high of AU $48.90 after speculation that Chinese mining firm Chinalco was considering purchasing a large stake. BHP representatives refused to comment.

On 25 November 2008. Billiton announced that it would drop its $66 billion takeover of rival Rio Tinto Group saying that the "risks to shareholder value" would "increase" to "an unacceptable level" due to the global financial crisis.

Recent history

On 21 January 2009 the company announced a response to the global financial crisis; BHP Billiton plans to close the Ravensthorpe mine and revert to processing ore only at the Yabulu nickel plant in Queensland Australia.Subsequently the Yabulu refinery was sold to Queensland Billionaire Mr Clive Palmer. Additionally the Pinto Valley mine in the United States was also closed. In total 6,000 employees were laid off, including those laid off with the scaling back at some other projects.


The company operates a wide variety of mining and processing operations in 25 countries, employing approximately 38,000 people.

The company has nine primary operational units:

Corporate structure

The Australian BHP Billiton Limited and the British BHP Billiton Plc list separately with separate shareholder bodies but they operate as one business with identical boards of directors and a single management structure. The headquarters are in Melbournemarker, Australia. The company has other key offices in London, Perthmarker, Johannesburgmarker, Santiagomarker, Singaporemarker, Shanghai, Houstonmarker and The Haguemarker.

The company's shares trade on the following exchanges:
  • BHP Billiton Limited
    • Australia ( )
    • US ( )
  • BHP Billiton plc
    • UK ( )
    • US ( )
    • South Africa ( )


After the merger between BHP and Billiton in 2001, Brian Gilbertson of Billiton was appointed CEO. In 2003, after just six months at the helm, he abruptly stepped down, citing irreconcilable differences with the boards.

Upon Gilbertson's resignation, Chip Goodyear was announced as the new CEO. He continued in that role until his retirement on 30 September 2007. Marius Kloppers is his immediate successor CEO.

Angola accident

Inclement weather caused a BHP Billiton helicopter to crash in Angolamarker on 16 November 2007, killing the helicopter's five passengers, including BHP's chief operation officer in Angola, David Hopgood. The helicopter went down about 80 km/50 miles from Alto Cuilo Camp, a diamond mining site the employees wanted to visit. BHP Billiton responded by suspending operations in the country. The company is investigating the incident.

Mines and processing facilities

The United Nations Environment Programme has noted that BHP’s Ok Tedi mine site’s "uncontrolled discharge of 70 million tonnes of waste rock and mine tailings annually has spread more than 1 000 km (621 miles) down the Ok Tedi and Fly rivers, raising river beds and causing flooding, sediment deposition, forest damage, and a serious decline in the area's biodiversity." The resulting devastation caused by the mining of Ok Tedi has included the loss of fish, a vital food source for the local community; loss of forest and crops due to flooding and; the loss of "areas of deep spiritual value for villagers are now submerged in mine tailings."

See also


  1. BHP Billiton merger confirmed
  2. Australian Business Records
  3. BlueScope Steel
  4. Shrinking the Big Australian
  5. History of Petroleum Exploration in Victoria
  6. The big, ugly Australian goes to Ok Tedi
  7. Discovery of Diamonds in North West Territories
  8. Steel City without the Big Australian
  9. One Steel
  10. Billiton History
  11. Shell Unit Sells Assets To Gencor
  12. Gencor pops champagne
  13. BHP Billiton withdraws $66bn bid for rival miner Rio Tinto
  14. Chambers, Matt. "BHP axes 6000 jobs and cuts projects." The Australian. 22 January, 2009.
  15. United Nations Environment Programme Accessed on 16/12/07.
  16. Australian Conservation Foundation, Leaving the scene of the mine"

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