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BHP Billiton eyes turning potash into core business

BHP Billiton Group CEO Andrew Mackenzie said the miner might grow its potash business to the size of its iron ore division, but only "under some circumstances," The Nikkei reported June 5.

As part of its ongoing restructuring, BHP is looking for an opportunity to offload its shale gas business to increase investment in potash mining.

BHP may earmark US$4.7 billion for the development of its Jansen potash mine in Saskatchewan, and a final investment decision could be made as early as June 2018, after studying market trends, Mackenzie noted.

If the company decides to enter full-scale investment, the mine could be producing 4 million tonnes per annum by 2023.

The company believes it has "the best undeveloped ore bodies in the world," with a potential to produce 10 million tonnes of potash annually for 50 years at Jansen.

In May, Mackenzie confirmed that the initial phase of the Jansen mine will be finished within six years. The company has already committed to spend US$3.8 billion to move the project into production, which could start by 2023.