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BHP Billiton and Russia's Norilsk Nickel sign mining agreement

MOSCOW, June 13 (RIA Novosti) - MMC Norilsk Nickel [RTS: GMKN] and BHP Billiton have signed an agreement on prospecting and developing mineral resources in Russia, the companies said in a joint news release Tuesday.

The Russian metals giant and the Anglo-Australian group, the world's largest mining company, said in a joint press release that under the agreement, signed on Monday, the companies would jointly prospect for and mine several commodities in targeted areas, initially focusing on northwestern Russia and West Siberia.

BHP Billiton chief executive, Chip Goodyear, said: "This alliance with Norilsk Nickel is a win-win and provides significant growth opportunities for both companies. This is an important step for BHP Billiton and represents a diversification of our geographical base. We look forward to working with our new partner in Russia."

The statement said that the project would make use of Norilsk's experience in Russia - it is the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium with market capitalization of around $25 billion - and BHP Billiton's project development expertise and world-class technology. The Australian company is the world's largest mining company with operations in 25 countries and market capitalization at around $130 billion.

Through the agreement, the companies will establish joint exploration and development companies, in which the Russian company will hold 50% plus one share, and BHB Billiton 50% minus one share.

Norilsk Nickel CEO Mikhail Prokhorov, said: "We are excited by the opportunity to work in close partnership with BHP Billiton to accelerate the development of Russia's mineral resource potential."

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