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BHP Billiton Iron Ore Chief Warns Of Project Delays

By Ross Kelly SYDNEY--BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP.AU) said Thursday the head of its iron ore division told staff in an internal email that it's reviewing the development timetable of its major growth projects, but denied he singled out any postponement of a US$20 billion expansion of its Port Hedland harbor. A report in The Australian newspaper Thursday quoted an internal email by BHP iron ore president Jimmy Wilson saying there's "the potential for extended project development timelines" at the company's iron ore operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia state. A BHP spokeswoman said Mr. Wilson didn't specifically mention Port Hedland. "In the note, he basically talked about the challenges the market's facing, and our belief in the long-term attractiveness of the iron ore market and the commitment to the projects that we currently have in execution," the spokeswoman said. "We've said for some time we're reviewing the sequence and pace of our future growth projects in the current environment," she added. Speculation is mounting that the mining giant will delay major growth projects amid a slide in commodity prices and escalating cost pressures in Australia. The company wouldn't say Sunday when a board decision is expected on whether to proceed with a A$30 billion expansion of its Olympic Dam copper, uranium and gold project in South Australia state. -By Ross Kelly, Dow Jones Newswires; 61-2-8272-4692; Subscribe to WSJ:

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