Mick Davis wants BHP’s coal division to be cornerstone of his new mining empire

Former Xstrata boss Mick Davis’ new company is said to be in talks with BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) to buy its unloved thermal coal operations, in an ambitious deal that would break up the world’s biggest miner.

According to The Sunday Times (reg. required), Davis is seeking to acquire a huge portfolio of assets that would, in effect, unwind the merger that created BHP Billiton 13 years ago.

Davis’ X2 Resources has already built a war chest of almost  $4 billion and is believed to be asking JPMorgan for US$8bn loan to back up a formal offer for BHP’s coal division, which has struggled in the face of falling commodity prices.

In addition, The Sunday Times added, Davis is thought to be weighing an offer for BHP’s nickel unit and considering sweeping up the giant miner’s aluminum and manganese operations.

The team behind X2, which also involves former Xstrata finance director Trevor Reid, has stated it believes the firm could profit from picking up assets other companies, under financial strain of getting funds for ongoing projects, are forced to sell at very low price.

Davis, 56, built his career on this “stronger-for-longer” theory, based on the belief that urbanization in China, India and some parts of sub-Saharan African would send the prices soaring for the copper used in everything from plumbing to the coal burned in electricity plants.

“Mick The Miner”, as he is known in the industry, served as Billiton finance director ahead of BHP’s 2001 takeover.