BHP considers withdrawal from aluminum and other non-essentials

BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), the world's largest diversified miner, is considering a withdrawal from aluminum and nickel operations as part of a general retreat from non-profitable sides projects by key mining players, and the company has appointed advisors to look into the possible sale of these assets.

The Financial Times cites unnamed sources as saying that BHP is one of a number of major mining companies pushing for a “retreat to the core,” seeking to divest itself of non-essential operations.

This development comes only months after BHP consolidated its aluminum and nickel assets into a single Perth-based division, which aluminum, nickel and corporate development CEO Alberto Claderon said was significant of the company’s long-term confidence in these areas.

Given the current state of the market, industry observers wonder if this is a propitious time for the big mining companies to be divesting themselves of non-core assets, with one source observing that “it is difficult to get good prices now.”

Aluminum and nickel aren't the only business divisions that are getting a hard look.

In April BHP Billiton announced that it was reviewing its diamond business, potentially selling it all off. Rio Tinto operates three diamond mines including Argyle in Australia, Diavik in Canada's far north and Murowa in Zimbabwe. The miner also has an advanced diamond project in Bunder, India.

Correction: This news story mistakenly asserted that BHP Billiton intends to withdraw from aluminum operations. BHP Billiton in fact recently re-affirmed its commitment to both aluminum and nickel in this public release.