UPDATE 2-BHP Billiton joins Rio in shifting focus to growth
* Copper, oil offer potential
* Structural deficits returning
* Capital expenditure on horizon after next year - BHP (Adds BHP, investor comments)
By Barbara Lewis and Sonali Paul
BRUSSELS/MELBOURNE, May 11 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton has talked up its future growth options, joining fellow mining giant Rio Tinto in marking a shift in focus after four years of aggressive cost cutting.
While big miners are still looking to sell assets to help cut debt or to exit businesses like nickel and coal, they are also preparing for a pick-up in demand as looming supply gaps in at least some commodities sow the seeds for higher prices.
After Rio hit the go button last week on the long stalled $5.3 billion expansion of the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia, BHP said on Tuesday it expects to sign off on copper and oil projects next year.
"For the last couple of years, it's been more about batten down the hatches and cost control. They may be changing the focus slightly now," said Andy Forster, a portfolio manager at Argo Investments.
BHP Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie said the Spence copper project in Chile was now expected to cost less than $2.2 billion, 30 percent below earlier estimates, and would add 200,000 tonnes of copper by 2020. Continuación...