SYDNEY (Reuters) - The world's largest miner BHP Billiton (>> BHP Billiton Limited) expects to continue mining iron ore in western Australia's Pilbara for more than 100 years and will release a plan for its long-term future in the region on Monday, according to a company statement.
BHP said it had lodged a strategic environmental assessment with the Australian and Western Australia state governments for long-term mining in the Pilbara region where it operates seven mines and will release the document on March 21.
"The SEA provides greater visibility of our potential environmental footprint over the next 50 to 100 years, improving our ability, as well as the government and others in the industry, to plan for future operations," Edgar Basto, the asset president of BHP Billiton Western Australia Iron Ore, said in the statement released on Saturday.
"We expect to continue to mine in the region for more than 100 years, which enables us to give back to the communities that have supported us for so long."
A global oversupply of iron ore and a slowing economy in top consumer China hit iron ore markets hard in late 2015 with slumping prices, leaving some small miners struggling. And despite a recent surge in prices, partly as a result of improving outlook for Chinese steel demand, some miners do not believe the recover is sustainable.
Moody's on Monday cut its rating on Fortescue Metals Group (>> Fortescue Metals Group Limited) to Ba2 with a negative outlook and on Wednesday BHP's chief executive Andrew Mackenzie told a business conference in Melbourne that the industry needed to "be prepared for lower for longer" in regards to iron ore prices.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Michael Perry)