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'Time of great opportunity': BHP chair

·2-min read

The bosses of BHP have delivered optimistic messages to the mining giant's shareholders against a background of global adversity.

Addressing the Melbourne-based company's online AGM on Wednesday, chair Ken MacKenzie said BHP had performed solidly in the 2020 financial year.

He cited strong earnings and cash flow, higher productivity, lower unit costs and delivering $US6.1 billion ($A8.5 billion) in dividends to shareholders.

"This is a time of great opportunity for BHP. Because as great as the challenges the world is facing, we know the answer to many of them can be found in the very resources we produce," he told the meeting.

"Our products are essential for global economic growth and the transition to a lower carbon world."

BHP was focusing on "future-facing commodities and assets", having strengthened its copper and nickel holdings and announced its intention to divest a number of coal assets.

"There is no easy route to a net zero world," Mr McKenzie said.

"But BHP is committed to the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals - because it is good for business and our stakeholders."

CEO Mike Henry told shareholders that global trends such as the electrification of transport, decarbonisation of power, population growth and rising standards of living are expected to drive demand for copper, nickel and potash, while growth in demand for iron ore, metallurgical coal, and oil and gas slows.

Having already added copper and nickel options to BHP's portfolio earlier in the year, "we are progressing towards a final investment decision on our potash project in Canada next year".

He said the outlook for commodity markets remained uncertain, amid global trade tensions and a variable pace of global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"However, the strength and consistency of the economic recovery underway in China does provide a measure of confidence and optimism," Mr Henry said.

BHP shares closed the day 0.77 per cent lower at $36.03 on the ASX.

In August, BHP posted a full-year net profit that was four per cent lower at $US7.95 billion.