BHP Billiton announces major shake-up of non-core operations

World’s largest miner BHP Billiton (ASX, NYSE:BHP) is moving fast with its ongoing review of non-core global operations, announcing Wednesday a major shake-up at its Western Australian Nickel West business.

The company’s nickel unit includes Mt Keith, Cliffs and Leinster mines and associated concentrators, theKalgoorliesmelter, Kambalda concentrator and the Kwinana refinery.

The news comes of the heels of the creation of a new aluminum division, BHP Billiton Aluminum Pty Ltd., which may include other non-core assets such as nickel and bauxite in a $20 billion company, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The company announced last month it is considering spinning off its nickel, manganese, and aluminum businesses into a separate unit, with the purpose of boosting shareholder returns.

BHP Billiton’s CEO Andrew Mackenzie restated at a Miami conference Tuesday the company was studying the next phase of simplification, including structural options.

The potential sale comes as nickel prices have surged this year afterIndonesia’s ban on nickel ore exports.

The company has not yet mentioned the fate of its Cerro Matoso nickel mine in Colombia.