BHP's potash priority

Potash is to become the 'fifth pillar' of BHP's operations as global demand is expected to increase 2%-3% each year until 2030, CEO Andrew Mackenzie told shareholders at the company's AGM in Perth on Thursday.

“The growth will be driven by a rising population and greater economic prosperity, which will change the patterns of food consumption, requiring higher yields from increasingly constrained arable land."

"Our continued investment in potash, at an average annual spend of $800-million, will make sure we are ready to take advantage of this opportunity to add to shareholder returns.”

BHP's massive Jansen project in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan has an expected output of 8 million tonnes a year of potash and a 70-year mine life.

The other four pillars of BHP's business are coal, copper, iron ore and petroleum.