BHP's Latin love affair intensifies

FLAT gold prices have put the skids on South America's massive exploration and mining boom of a couple of years ago. But the Latin American region is about to regain a new level of scrutiny from Australian investors, courtesy of the US$28 billion merger between BHP and Billiton.

BHP was already a significant player in South America, through its 57% stake in the huge Escondida copper mine in Chile, along with other resources investments in Peru, Brazil and Venezuela.