BHP sells diamond assets for $500 million

The world's largest miner BHP Billiton on Wednesday said it was exiting the diamond industry, selling its Canadian assets to retailer Harry Winston Diamond Corp. for US$500 million.

BHP had an 80 percent stake in the EKATI diamond mine, which produces more than three million carats of rough diamonds a year.

The company said it was offloading the assets as part of its strategy to only invest in large, long-life, expandable assets.

"We are very proud of EKATI's track record and the substantial value it has created for the region and our shareholders," said BHP Billiton Diamonds president Tim Cutt.

"Harry Winston has long experience in the Canadian diamond industry and their commitment to study further development at EKATI could help extend the mine's contribution to northern Canada for many years to come."

The decision followed a review of the business launched last year, with BHP deciding that there was limited ability to expand given the scarcity of large deposits worldwide.

Completion of the deal is expected in the first quarter of 2013 and follows BHP last December agreeing to sell its 51 percent interest in the Chidliak diamond exploration project, also in Canada, to Peregrine Diamonds.

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