After conquering iron ore, BHP and Rio move to dominate in copper
* Rio, BHP repeating iron ore strategy in copper
* Injecting more copper into oversupplied market
* In coming years, confident copper will be in short supply
By James Regan
SYDNEY, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are amassing vast copper holdings in a push to capture a greater chunk of the $140 billion world market, apparently aiming to squeeze out high-cost producers just as they did in the global iron ore business.
Separately and in joint ventures, Rio and BHP intend to mine millions of additional tonnes of copper, despite seeing an oversupplied market for the next few years.
"For both companies, this is about wielding the greatest influence possible over the global marketplace," said Gavin Wendt, senior resources analyst for Sydney-based consultants MineLife.
"Having said that, unlike in the highly concentrated iron ore space where the focus is squarely on one market owned in large part by Rio and BHP - China, copper is sold much more widely, leaving room for smaller producers to stay in the game," Wendt said.
Several smaller producers contacted by Reuters declined to comment, saying it was too early to gauge the impact of the expansions. Continuación...