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« Wishing You a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year | Main | Environment, economy, energy factors in debate over uranium mining in Virginia »

BHP shuts uranium arm; nuclear-fuel prospects dim

MELBOURNE--BHP Billiton Ltd. has shut its uranium division, responsible for its Olympic Dam copper-and-uranium mine, in a reflection of dimmed prospects for the nuclear fuel.

The South Australia mine has been folded into its base metals division, the company said in a statement Thursday.

Olympic Dam has been the highest-profile casualty of a cost-cutting drive by the mining company amid rising costs, a persistently strong Australian dollar and sharp falls in the price of industrial commodities. In August, BHP shelved plans for a US$30 billion expansion of the South Australian mine that included boosting uranium production by more than fourfold.

BHP also agreed in August to sell its Yeelirrie uranium deposit in Western Australia to Cameco Corp. (CCJ) for US$430 million.

Market prices for uranium have only partially recovered from a sharp fall in the wake of an earthquake in Japan last year that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi reactor complex and prompted several countries to rethink the use of nuclear power.

Darryl Cuzzubbo will take over responsibility for Olympic Dam from Dean Dalla Valle, who will become president of the company's energy coal division, BHP said. He will report to Peter Beaven, president of base metals.

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