BHP names new exec to lead its potash business, moves offices to Saskatchewan

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SASKATOON — BHP Billiton named a new executive to head its potash business and announced plans Tuesday to move the group's offices from Vancouver to Saskatoon.

Tim Cutt will take over the company's diamonds and specialty products business, which includes the global miner's potash projects, on June 1.

Cutt is currently BHP's president for production in its petroleum business.

BHP (NYSE:BHP) tried and failed to buy Saskatoon-based PotashCorp (TSX:POT) last year after the federal government stepped in and blocked the deal under provisions of the Investment Canada Act.

BHP's Jansen potash project was a key point of dispute during the takeover fight. PotashCorp had questioned BHP's commitment to develop the project if it were successful in acquiring the Canadian company.

In March, BHP signed a deal with SNC-Lavalin Group (TSX:SNC) to help develop the mine.

The Montreal-based engineering and construction firm will initially complete a feasibility study for the first phase of the Jansen potash project, about 140 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

BHP announced in January that it would spend $240 million developing the project, including ground freezing to allow shaft sinking as well as completing detailed engineering, equipment and materials commitments.

Cutt takes over from Graham Kerr, who has led the diamonds and specialty products business since 2007. BHP said Kerr was returning to Australia due to a family illness and would remain with the company.

In addition to the potash assets, BHP's diamonds and specialty products business includes an 80 per cent stake in the Ekati diamond mine in the Northwest Territories.

The Ekati mine produces about three million carats of rough diamonds a year.

On Monday, BHP announced the approval of a plan to extend the life of the Misery open pit at the Ekati mine that was mined from 2001 to 2005.

Stripping operations are to begin in October, with ore production expected starting late in 2015 and running to mid 2017.

Organizations: PotashCorp, TSX, BHP Billiton NYSE Ekati SNC-Lavalin Group

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, SASKATOON, Vancouver Australia Northwest Territories.The Ekati

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