28 May 2002
Number: 31/02


BHP Billiton Base Metals today announced it would extend the copper
production cuts announced by the Group last year, following a market
review that determined an absence of market demand for additional
copper in the short term.

On November 8 2001, in response to deteriorating market conditions,
BHP Billiton Base Metals detailed a 170 000 tonne reduction in copper
production to be delivered in the form of a constrained production
program at Escondida, and the temporary closure of the sulphide
operation at Tintaya.

The extension of the production cuts effectively removes an additional
80 000 tonnes of copper production from Escondida through the end of this
calendar year.  Combined with the previously announced 170 000 tonne cut,
this brings the total reduction in copper production to approximately
250 000 tonnes for the period of November 2001 through December 2002.

President BHP Billiton Base Metals, Brad Mills,  today said:
"It has become apparent that although total world copper production has
decreased, demand has failed to pick up substantially. Stocks have
continued to grow at a significant rate through the first half of
the year.  On May 15, 2002, combined LME-COMEX-Shanghai stocks stood
at 1 493 392 tonnes compared to warehouse stocks of 985 549 tonnes on
November 9, 2001, when the original production cuts were announced."

Mr Mills continued: "Although leading indicators suggest that demand
should begin to improve, the current physical market continues to be
weak. At the time of announcing the original production cuts, it was
made clear we would continue to monitor the market conditions and would
review our operating strategy accordingly, midway through this
calendar year."

At Tintaya, the sulphide operation, which is capable of producing
90 000 tpa of copper in concentrate, will remain closed until at least
January 2003. BHP Billiton will continue to mitigate the impact of the
temporary closure on the workforce through the extension of partial
employment arrangements.

The Tintaya oxide plant, which commenced commissioning in April 2002,
will continue to produce high quality, low cost cathode at the rate
of 34 000 tpa.

At Escondida, the mine will continue its constrained operating strategy
through to at least the end of calendar 2002 and will take this opportunity
to undertake optimising modifications to the existing concentrator.
The net result is that Escondida copper production for calendar 2002
will be slightly less than calendar 2001, despite the start up of
Escondida Phase 4 in September 2002.

Mr Mills said: "Looking forward to calendar 2003, if market conditions
warrant, BHP Billiton will be in a position to respond to real increases
in demand by operating Escondida and Tintaya at full capacity.
Post Phase IV commissioning, Escondida's capacity will increase
to 1.2 Mtpa over the next 5 years, and Tintaya's capacity including
cathode production, will increase to 124 000 tpa.

"To meet medium term demand, we continue to advance the final phases of
the expansion of Escondida, through the Norte and Sulphide Leach projects.
These expansions will be managed to maintain Escondida production at
approximately 1.2 Mtpa for many years to come."

BHP Billiton Base Metals will also continue to expand its production base
as the market allows. The Spence project is one of the most attractive
major developments currently available today and will result in an
additional 210 000 tpa of copper cathode with a C1 cost of around 35c/lb.

Further information can be found on our Internet site:

Andrew Nairn, Investor Relations
Tel:    +61 3 9609 3952
Mobile: +61 408 313 259

Mandy Frostick, Media Relations
Tel:    +61 3 9609 4157
Mobile: +61 419 546 245

United States
Francis McAllister, Investor Relations
Tel:    +1 713 961 8625
Mobile: +1 713 480 3699

United Kingdom
Mark Lidiard, Investor & Media Relations
Tel:    +44 20 7747 3956

South Africa
Michael Campbell, Investor & Media Relations
Tel:    +27 11 376 3360
Mobile: +27 82 458 2587

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