BHP Billiton CEO meets with Saskatchewan premier during election campaign'

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SASKATOON - The CEO of the world's largest mining company says a meeting with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall during an election campaign is just a coincidence.

BHP Billiton's Marius Kloppers said Friday's get-together in Saskatoon had been set for a long while.

Kloppers said he was looking for reassurance that Saskatchewan is going to remain a good place to invest over the long term.

He says that doesn't mean he's hoping for one party or another to get elected on Nov. 7, but added that stability is one of the most important factors in deciding whether BHP Billiton (LSE:BLT) will invest heavily in Saskatchewan.

Wall said the province's royalty structure, should remain as it is for the time being, but he added a Saskatchewan Party government would be open to adjustments to ensure they are fair to both sides.

The British-Australian company with global operations, including diamond and potash businesses in Canada, is currently developing its $1.2 billion Jansen mine in Saskatchewan and hopes to start producing potash in 2015.

The project is expected to employ 1,900 people during construction and create about 1,000 operational jobs once the mine has reached full capacity.

BHP is also exploring two other properties in Saskatchewan near Melville and Young.

Last year, BHP failed in a $40 billion bid to buy Saskatoon-based PotashCorp (TSX:POT), the world's biggest fertilizer producer and one of Canada's best known companies.

Wall vehemently opposed the deal on the grounds Saskatchewan could lose billions in revenue from taxes and royalties if the BHP bid were successful. The premier painted the proposed takeover as anti-Canadian and said the country's strategic interests would be at risk if the province sold most of its potash industry to an international company.

Ottawa later rejected the takeover after concluding it failed to benefit Canada.

(CJWW, The Canadian Press)

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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