The Nickel West business includes mines, a smelter and refinery, and employs about 3500 people.
Before the former BHP assets that were spun out to form South32 a few years ago, Nickel West was speculated as something that could go into the South32 portfolio. But the comments from the BHP boss indicate that Nickel West is now considered a core part of the BHP business.
Mr Mackenzie told the conference that the miner had shaped its portfolio around commodities that had attractive fundamentals.
“Developments such as climate change and dramatic shifts in technology present both challenges and opportunities,” he said.
“To make sure that we secure the future prosperity of our company, we constantly test our current assets and future options against many divergent scenarios for how the world will look well into the future. Decarbonisation, the electrification of transport, the future of work and food security are examples of strategic themes that we monitor,” he said.
Shares in BHP closed down 1.1 per cent on Tuesday, at $36.52, on a day when the ASX 200 eased 0.9 per cent in response to the US-China rift over trade.
Meanwhile, Rio Tinto boss Jean-Sebastien Jacques told the conference it was being held at a “critical time for the mining industry”.
Mr Jacques also said protectionism was “threatening global trade”, adding that major mining companies were in fact trading companies.