BHP sees no imminent decision on Canada potash mine

Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:55am EDT
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* CEO sees Jansen as a good project

* BMO report says better to return cash to shareholders

By Clara Ferreira-Marques

LONDON, Oct 25 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton said on Thursday it won't decide soon on whether to build the world's biggest potash mine in Western Canada, a project some say would exacerbate a global glut of the fertilizer nutrient.

In late August, BHP pushed back to at least June 2013 a decision on building an 8 million-tonne mine at Jansen, Saskatchewan, but emphasized it would still proceed with construction and was planning to double the first phase of production. The Anglo-Australian mining giant has been aiming to start production in 2015.

The emphasis appeared to shift on Thursday, when Chief Executive Marius Kloppers made remarks that suggested there's little urgency to proceed.

"The guys still have their lease agreements to complete, they have a substantial amount of engineering to complete," he said when speaking to reporters after BHP's annual meeting in London. "We do have quite some time ahead of us before we need to consider additional approvals."

Kloppers said the company still considers Jansen "a good project" but added, "we approve only projects that are value-creating for our shareholders."

BHP continues to dig two shafts and build surface facilities at the mine site. Analysts estimate the mine could cost up to $14 billion to complete.   Continued...