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Driving a hard bargain endangered mining boss’ safety says witness

Marius Kloppers
Former BHP CEO Marius Kloppers

A multinational resources company leader became at risk of harm and injury because he kept asking for more money, an insider revealed.

BHP was so concerned about former CEO Marius Kloppers’ personal safety the mining giant arranged security around the clock at his private residence.

“We lifted our security concentration [and] there were people around his home, and there was always someone close by his side,” former BHP chairman Don Argus said according to Fairfax Media.

“His safety was not as secure as it should have been at that time and we had to keep a very close eye on where he went, and who he went with – and what happened.”

Argus revealed BHP also gave Kloppers and other executives unassigned mobile phones, searched offices for audio monitoring devices, and banned employees from taking mobile or computer devices into mainland China.

These strict measures were in force between 2007 and 2008, around the time Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (also known as MI6) identified the employer as a possible “target” of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “ambition” and “post-global financial crisis collapse”. Agencies from the Australia, Germany and the United States were also understood to be monitoring the proponent at the time.

The former chair suspects Beijing targeted Kloppers because communist leaders wanted the then CEO to stop pressuring China-based customers to swap existing long-term iron ore contracts with more expensive, short-term pacts. These new deals were potentially worth “megabucks”.

“Marius was in their face all the time about increasing the prices and talking about prices, and they [Chinese customers] do not like talking about prices,” the former board chair said according to the media outlet.

“The Chinese had a habit of hitting themselves in the foot by trying to manipulate markets and Marius kept at it, and he had to do it on his own.”

Kloppers’ efforts paid off as the CCP eventually allowed BHP to move iron ore sales from benchmark- to market clearing- pricing. This reportedly caused iron ore prices to jump six times higher between 2005 and 2010.

In 2013 Andrew McKenzie replaced Kloppers, who is now understood to be reclusively living in Portugal. Kloppers did not immediately respond to media enquiries at the time of publication.

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AMSJ April 2022