May 27, 2014 / 1:10 PM / in 4 years

BHP Billiton says it may cut jobs at Worsley Alumina

* $3 bln expansion of Australian plant completed last year

* Boosted alumina refinery capacity to 4.6 mln tonnes a year

* Took $2.2 billion writedown on Worsley in 2012

By Silvia Antonioli

LONDON, May 27 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton , the world’s largest diversified mining company, may cut jobs at its Worsley Alumina operations in Australia after completing a review of the business, the company said on Tuesday.

The review follows last year’s completion of a $3 billion expansion of the site that former CEO Marius Kloppers was reported to have described as the biggest mistake of his tenure.

A weakening of alumina prices was among the factors that forced BHP to book a $2.2 billion gross impairment against Worsley in the the six months to December 2012 and the group has earmarked its aluminium division among its non-core businesses and said it would consider options such as the sale or a spin-off of unwanted assets into a separate company.

“With no new projects planned for the next five years, the organisational structure of Worsley is under review. This includes reviewing the nature and number of roles needed to support safe and efficient production and ensure Worsley has a sustainable future,” a BHP Billiton spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

“We don’t intend to provide any detail about specific adjustments, but clearly there may be some impact on jobs in some areas. The review is ongoing and no operational disruptions are anticipated.”

Worsley Alumina includes two assets: a bauxite mine and an alumina refinery. The bauxite and alumina produced there are exported to clients including to BHP’s own aluminium smelters in South Africa and Mozambique.

BHP said it does not disclose staff numbers by asset but Australian media said that Worsley employs more than 1,200 people directly and indirectly.

The expansion completed last year boosted the Worsley refinery capacity by 1.1 million tonnes to 4.6 million tonnes a year of smelter-grade alumina.

BHP owns an 86 percent stake in Worsley Alumina, with joint venture partners Japan Alumina Associates and Sojitz Alumina owning 10 percent and 4 percent respectively. (Editing by David Goodman)

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