Deaths force BHP Billiton safety review

With 16 deaths among its 60,000 employees and 50,000 contractors last year, BHP Billiton is to introduce initiatives to improve its environmental and safety record.

While the numbers were an improvement on previous year's figures, they do not compare favourably with arch rival Rio Tinto. The diversified mining giant only recorded five deaths from its worldwide operations last year.

BHPB's Health, Safety, Environment and Community Report revealed that BHPB was fined 19 times for a total of almost of $135,700 for environmental breaches. The biggest fine being for an oil spill at the company's Liverpool operations in 1998. It was fined $108,000 for that misdemeanour.

"We reiterate that the requirements of our HESC policy and management standards apply to all BHP Billiton sites and operations throughout the world," BHPB chief, Mr Paul Anderson said in the company's report.

Stockbrokers on tour of the company's Liverpool assets this week said the company was looking to have four infill wells approved next year to extend peak production beyond 2003, after which liquids production is expected to fall away. The field's oil and gas reserves are expected to yield $US1 billion to the company over the next 10 years.