Billiton backtracks from CEO's comments on gold mine acquisition

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From CBSMarketWatch.com
Thursday, November 30, 2006

http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/bhp-billiton-says-gold-still/story...

SYDNEY, Australia -- Gold remains a non-core commodity for BHP Billiton (BHP) and the world's largest miner is not looking to buy gold assets, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

She was responding to media reports Wednesday quoting Chief Executive Chip Goodyear that BHP is underexposed in gold and would consider buying a gold mine.

The spokeswoman said if BHP found gold it has the technical skills to develop the deposit, and may do so in order to maximize value before selling it.

Specialist gold companies trade at higher multiples than diversified miners "and so we are not the best owner of gold mines," she said.

"We would not look to buy any gold companies (and) we have no exploration activities aimed at looking specifically for gold," she said.

Melbourne-based BHP Billiton's global operations are focused on bulk commodities iron ore and coal as well as industrial metals such as copper and nickel and oil and gas.

The spokeswoman said Goodyear, speaking at the company's annual general meeting in Brisbane, was misinterpreted in his comments on the precious metal.

Asked at the meeting if BHP could be a bidder for Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX), Goodyear declined to comment but noted BHP has a policy of not investing in mines which dump tailings, a process called "riveriron" tailing operations.

Freeport's Grasberg copper and gold mine in Indonesia uses this process. The mine is 40% owned by Rio Tinto Plc. Freeport has offered US$25.9 billion for Phelps Dodge Corp.

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