Miner BHP Billiton swims against the tide with spending boost

Jessica Morris
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BHP Billiton Announces Record Financial Results
BHP is betting on oil and copper (Source: Getty)

The battered mining sector could be on the tip of a pick up after BHP Billiton unveiled plans to boost how much it spends on finding oil and copper.

Speaking during a presentation to Citigroup investors, BHP said it will raise exploration spending by nearly 30 per cent over this financial year, from $700m (£530m) to $900m.

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The miner added that its bigger exploration budget will primarily be directed at oil and copper. "BHP is making it clear that oil and copper top the list for growth potential," Peter O'Connor, mining analyst at Shaw and Partners, said.

Rio Tinto, which doesn't have an oil business, is also focusing its exploration efforts on unearthing more copper.

Shares in BHP fell 0.4 per cent to 852.70p per share in London today, while Rio rose 1.03 per cent to 2,099.00p per share.

PWC recently said that the world's leading mining firms are digging in for a long road to recovery. Jason Burkitt, UK mining leader at PwC, predicted a long-term positive outlook for the sector despite the continuing challenges.

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It's suffered as over-investment during boom years for commodities culminated in oversupply at a time when demand slowed. This has been exacerbated by the biggest firms ramping up production to defend and even grow their market share.

But BHP is banking on future demand coupled with fewer oil wells, as well as falling copper ore grades at firms' mines across the world to whittle down supply and boost margins.

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