BHP sells US copper assets for $650 million

Global mining titan BHP Billiton on Monday announced the sale of its Pinto Valley mining operation and rail assets in the United States to Capstone Mining Corp for US$650 million.

In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, BHP said it had signed a definitive cash agreement with Canadian base metal miner Capstone.

The deal for the open-pit copper mining operation east of Phoenix in the Globe-Miami district of Arizona is subject to regulatory approval and expected to be completed in the second half of 2013.

BHP Billiton president copper Peter Beaven said: "The sale of Pinto Valley ... is consistent with our strategy and it takes the transaction value of divestments announced over the last 12 months to US$5.0 billion."

With profits hit by weak commodity prices and cool Chinese demand, BHP brought in new management, focused on core assets and declared a war on costs.

In February, the company posted a plunge in first-half net profit of 58 percent to US$4.2 billion, hurt by steep falls in commodity prices.

However, BHP affirmed on April 18 full-year guidance for its major products, reporting a "robust" March quarter of output. It said it expected to meet full-year targets with solid performances at iron ore and coal sites.

BHP has 100 percent ownership in both Pinto Valley and the associated San Manuel Arizona Railroad Company which operates a 47-kilometre (30-mile) railway from San Manuel to Hayden, Arizona.

Under the sale, Capstone will assume environmental liabilities at the mine.