BHP sheds 155 nickel workers

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A falling nickel price and high Australian dollar has prompted BHP Billiton to sack 155 workers from its Nickel West operations.

BHP said it intended to "restructure" the nickel business to cut costs, and planned on slashing production at the Mount Keith mine in WA’s Goldfields by 30 per cent.

It said the Mount Keith changes would only be temporary, lasting about one year, but it did not provide exact dates.

Last month the company foreshadowed the move in its December production report, but it has previously denied suggestions it would sell its Nickel West operations.

In a statement yesterday the company said the changes were made to create a "simpler, leaner and more competitive organization".

"Approximately 155 people (employees and contractors) may be affected by this decision," it said.

"We will be working closely with our colleagues in iron ore and other business groups to seek to place people affected by these changes into other positions.”

The restructure comes after BHP’s complete exit from the titanium market, selling its 37 per cent interest in South African Richards Bay Minerals to Rio Tinto.

The sale moved Rio Tinto’s stake in Richards Bay Minerals to 74 per cent.

BHP has also announced approval of nearly $1 billion in funding for the construction of its outer harbour facility at Port Hedland.

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