BHP Billiton

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Posted by sonny 03/31/2009 @ 05:13

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News headlines
BHP Billiton, Transurban, Leighton: Australia Equity Preview - Bloomberg
BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP AU), the world's largest mining company, lost 6.2 percent to A$32.30. The company's US-traded receipts rose 1.3 percent in New York trading to the equivalent of A$33.02. Rio Tinto Group (RIO AU), the world's third-biggest mining...
Rio Tinto gains ground on hopes of new offer from BHP Billiton - Irish Times
MINING FIRM Rio Tinto gained ground yesterday as brokers gave credence to hopes of a new offer from BHP Billiton . BHP has been repeatedly linked with an alternative offer to Rio's proposed $19.5 billion (€14.3 billion) deal with Chinalco,...
World economic recovery to be slow, no sharp rebound expected ... - Creamer Media's Mining Weekly
JOHANNESBURG ( – The overall world economic recovery would be slow and protracted and a sharp rebound was not anticipated, BHP Billiton CEO Marius Kloppers has told a global mining conference. The South African born head of the world's...
BHP closes Western Australia nickel mine - Creamer Media's Mining Weekly
JOHANNESBURG ( – Diversified mining giant BHP Billiton will place its Rocky's Reward openpit mine at the Leinster nickel operation, in Western Australia, on care-and-maintenance in response to the deterioration of nickel prices,...
No drudge on BHP sludge dredge - Newcastle Herald
BY IAN KIRKWOOD CONTAMINATED waste from the Hunter River will be dredged, treated and buried in 48 hours in an around-the-clock operation proposed by BHP Billiton. An environmental assessment that will be on display for two weeks from today has said...
BHP Will Miss Iron Ore Target on Safety, Accidents - Bloomberg
By Rebecca Keenan May 6 (Bloomberg) -- BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's largest mining company, said its iron ore production this fiscal year will miss a previous guidance by a “few million tons” because of accidents at its Western Australian mines....
BHP Billiton, Onesteel, Stockland: Australia Equity Preview - Bloomberg
BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP AU), the world's largest mining company, lost 2.8 percent to A$34.31. The company's US-traded receipts fell 1.5 percent in New York trading to the equivalent of A$34.18. Rio Tinto Group (RIO AU), the world's third-biggest mining...
Michael Feller BREAKFAST DEALS: Spreading stories - Business Spectator
There's rumoured activity spread right across the market today, with PanAust, BHP Billiton and Gloucester Coal leading the stories in resources and another failed tree fund raising questions about the activity of Elder's in the beleaguered managed...
BHP Billiton unveils nation's most generous maternal leave - Melbourne Herald Sun
FOR most people, the name BHP Billiton conjures up images of blokey, dusty, rough-diamond types working the outback mines. But the Big Australian showed its caring, sharing side yesterday when it unveiled the nation's most generous - and inclusive...
Rio Will Outperform BHP Billiton in Market Rally, Newedge Says - Bloomberg
By Gareth Gore April 30 (Bloomberg) -- Newedge Group recommended using options to bet that mining company Rio Tinto Group will continue to outperform larger rival BHP Billiton Ltd. should equity markets rise, as the “risk” posed by its debt level...

BHP Billiton

BHP Billiton.svg

BHP Billiton is the world's largest mining company. It was created in 2001 by the merger of Australia's Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) and the UK's Billiton, which had a Dutch and South African background. The result is a dual-listed company with head offices in Melbourne and London. BHP Billiton Limited, which is the majority partner in the dual-listed structure, is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. BHP Billiton Plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

The Broken Hill Proprietary Company or BHP was incorporated in 1885, operating the silver and lead mine at Broken Hill in western New South Wales. In 1915, the company ventured into steel manufacturing, with its operations based primarily in Newcastle, New South Wales. The company's corporate offices are located in Melbourne, Victoria. It is also known by the nickname "the Big Australian".

The company began petroleum exploration in the 1960s with discoveries in Bass Strait, an activity which became an increasing focus.

BHP began to diversify offshore in a variety of projects. One project was the Ok Tedi copper mine in Papua New Guinea, where the company was successfully sued by the indigenous inhabitants because of the environmental degradation caused by the mine operations. BHP had better success with the giant Escondida copper mine in Chile (57.5% owned) and the Ekati Diamond Mine in northern Canada.

The inefficiencies of what was, by global standards, a small steel operation in Newcastle finally caught up with the company and the Newcastle operations were closed in 1999. The 'long products' side of the steel business was spun off to form OneSteel in 2000.

In 2001, BHP merged with the Billiton mining company to form BHP Billiton, the largest mining company in the world. In 2002, the 'flat products' steel business was spun off to form BHP Steel. In 2003, BHP Steel changed its name to BlueScope Steel.

Billiton was a mining company whose origins stretch back to 29 September 1860, when the articles of association were approved by a meeting of shareholders in the Groot Keizerhof hotel in The Hague, Netherlands.

Two months later, the company acquired the mineral rights to tin-rich islands of Banka and Billiton in the Indonesian archipelago, off the eastern coast of Sumatra.

Billiton's initial business forays included tin and lead smelting in The Netherlands, followed in the 1940s by bauxite mining in Indonesia and Suriname. In 1970, Royal Dutch/Shell acquired Billiton and accelerated the scope of progress of this growth. The tin and lead smelter in Arnhem, Netherlands was shut down in the 1980s.

In 1994 Gencor acquired the mining division of Billiton excluding the downstream metal division. Billiton was divested from Gencor in 1997. In 1997, Billiton Plc became a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

Throughout the 1990s and beyond, Billiton Plc experienced considerable growth. Its portfolio included aluminium smelters in South Africa and Mozambique, nickel operations in Australia and Colombia, base metals mines in South America, Canada and South Africa, coal mines in Australia, Colombia and South Africa, as well as interests in operations in Brazil, Suriname, Australia (aluminium) and South Africa (titanium minerals and steel and ferroalloys).

In 2001 Billiton Plc merged with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) to form BHP Billiton.

In March 2005, Billiton announced a US$7.3 billion agreed bid for another mining company WMC Resources, owners of the Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia, nickel operations in Western Australia and Queensland, and a fertiliser plant also in Queensland. The takeover achieved 90% acceptance on 17 June 2005, and 100% ownership was announced on 2 August 2005, achieved through compulsory acquisition of the last 10% of the shares.

On 8 November 2007, BHP Billiton announced it was seeking to purchase rival mining group Rio Tinto Group in an all-share deal. The initial offer of 3.34 shares of BHP Billiton stock for each share of Rio Tinto was rejected by the board of Rio Tinto for "significantly undervaluing" the company. It was unknown at the time if BHP Billiton would attempt to purchase Rio Tinto through some form of hostile takeover; however, CEO Marius Kloppers met with many of Rio's shareholders since the announcement and reiterated that the offer for Rio was "compelling" and that BHP Billiton is very "patient." A formal hostile bid of 3.4 BHP Billiton shares for each Rio Tinto share was announced on 6 February 2008. The bid was withdrawn on 25 November 2008 due to a global recession.

On 14 May 2008, BHP Billiton shares rose to a record high of AU $48.90 after speculation that Chinese mining firm Chinalco was considering purchasing a large stake. BHP representatives refused to comment.

On 25 November 2008. Billiton announced that it would drop its $66 billion takeover of rival Rio Tinto Group saying that the "risks to shareholder value" would "increase" to "an unacceptable level" due to the global financial crisis.

On 21 January 2009 the company announced a response to the global financial crisis; BHP Billiton plans to close the Ravensthorpe mine and associated Yabulu nickel plant in Australia, close the Pinto Valley mine in the United States, lay off a total of 6,000 employees, and scale back on some projects.

The company operates a wide variety of mining and processing operations in 25 countries, employing approximately 38,000 people.

The Australian BHP Billiton Limited and the British BHP Billiton Plc list separately with separate shareholder bodies but they operate as one business with identical boards of directors and a single management structure. The headquarters are in Melbourne, Australia. The company has other key offices in London, Perth, Johannesburg, Santiago, Singapore, Shanghai, Houston and The Hague.

After the merger between BHP and Billiton in 2001, Brian Gilbertson of Billiton was appointed CEO. In 2003, after just six months at the helm, he abruptly stepped down, citing irreconcilable differences with the boards.

Upon Gilbertson's resignation, Chip Goodyear was announced as the new CEO. He continued in that role until his retirement on 30 September 2007. Marius Kloppers is his immediate successor CEO.

Inclement weather caused a BHP Billiton helicopter to crash in Angola on 16 November 2007, killing the helicopter's five passengers, including BHP's chief operation officer in Angola, David Hopgood. The helicopter went down about 80 km/50 miles from Alto Cuilo Camp, a diamond mining site the employees wanted to visit. BHP Billiton responded by suspending operations in the country. The company is investigating the incident.

As of 23 March 2009.

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Pallinghurst Resources LLP

Pallinghurst is headed by former BHP Billiton CEO Brian Gilbertson. Pallinghurst Resources LLP offers investment advice relating to all commodities in the natural resources sector to a variety of investors. Investment opportunities include mines, smelters, refineries, and processing plants. PRLLP attempt to identify opportunities where value can be realised by strategic repositioning, consolidation, vertical integration, expansion or turn-around initiatives. The business model is similar to many private equity/ venture capital type businesses, but with a sole focus on the natural resources sector.

Pallinghurst Resources LLP acts as investment advisor to Pallinghurst Resources (Guernsey) Limited, a company listed on the Bermuda Stock Exchange and the Stock Exchange of the JSE Limited in Johannesburg. It also acts as the investment advisor to a number of other strategic investment partners, who are able to enter into each of the opportunities identified by PRLLP, as they desire. The other strategic investment partners include an affiliate of American Metals & Coal International, one of the world’s largest and most successful privately owned coal mining companies, and an affiliate of Investec, the JSE-listed international specialist banking group and leading provider of financial services to the natural resources industry.

A number of investments have been made to date, including the acquisition of the Fabergé luxury goods brand, which was bought from Unilever in January 2007 for an undisclosed amount. Unilever had owned the brand for almost 20 years.

The intention is to restore the Fabergé name as an exclusive luxury goods brand, that will be true to the heritage of Peter Carl Fabergé, one of the world’s foremost designers and purveyors of luxury items. ( Peter Carl Fabergé manufactured luxury jewellery in St Petersburg in the 19th century, and is best known for the famous Fabergé eggs supplied to Russian royalty). A key element of this part of the strategy for the Fabergé investment is the involvement of the two great-granddaughters of Peter Carl Fabergé, Sarah Fabergé and Tatiana Fabergé, who now have key roles in the Fabergé business and have been appointed alongside Fabergé experts to the Fabergé Heritage Council.

The second intention for the Fabergé brand is to pursue the consolidation of and vertical integration in the coloured gemstone industry which will, as one of its product lines, market and sell individually branded Fabergé gemstones which will guarantee the provenance and the ethical sourcing of the gemstones. This initiative is linked to the Gemfields investment detailed below.

A further investment has been made to acquire a 75% stake in a Zambian emerald mining company, Kagem Mining Limited. Kagem is located on the Fwaya-Fwaya emerald belt, near Kitwe, and is the largest emerald mine in Africa. In June 2008, the Kagem asset was used as the key asset facilitating the reverse takeover of Gemfields Resources plc. Gemfields owned the rights to a number of other mines on the Fwaya- Fwaya belt, and was listed on the AIM section of the LSE. The reverse takeover resulted in Kagem being vended into Gemfields (together with a license to use the Fabergé name on high-quality coloured gemstones) in exchange for an interest of 55% in the enlarged group.

Gemfields intends to become the leading producer of coloured gemstones by pursuing consolidation and vertical integration of the sector on an international scale. Gemfields’ operating scope will include acquiring and running scalable mines, in-house cutting and polishing of its high grade material and suitable marketing and branding programmes for coloured gemstones.

Pallinghurst LLP are currently seeking further opportunities to enter into across the natural resources sector.

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Rio Tinto Group

Rhodesia was the location of Rio Tinto's first major international expansion of mining activities.

Rio Tinto is a multinational mining and resources group founded originally in 1873. It is the third-largest coal mining company in the world as of late 2008.

Since 1995, Rio Tinto has been a dual-listed company. Rio Tinto Limited, formerly known as Conzinc Riotinto of Australia (CRA), is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, with Rio Tinto plc (formerly RTZ or Rio Tinto Zinc) listed on the London Stock Exchange as well as New York Stock Exchange (under ticker RTP). The two companies are managed as a single economic unit by a unified board, with a share in either company entitling the owner to the same voting rights and dividend payouts. RTZ shareholders made up 76.7 percent of the new unified entity, which is primarily managed from London.

Since antiquity, a site along the Rio Tinto river in the Andalusian Province of Huelva (Spain) has been mined for copper, silver, gold, and other minerals. Approximately 3,000 BCE, Iberians and Tartessians began mining the site, followed by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. After a period of abandonment, the mines were rediscovered in 1556 and the Spanish government began operating them once again in 1724. However, Spain's mining operations there were inefficient, and the government itself otherwise distracted by political and financial crises, leading the government to sell the mines (at a price later determined to be well below actual value) in 1873.

The purchasers of the mine were led by Hugh Matheson's Matheson and Company, which ultimately formed a syndicate consisting of Deutsche Bank (56% ownership), Matheson (24%), and railway firm Clark, Punchard and Company (20%). At an auction held by the Spanish government for sale of the mine on February 17, 1873, the group won with a bid 3,680,000 pounds sterling (92,800,000 Spanish pesetas). The bid also specified that Spain permanently relinquish any right to claim royalties on the mine's production. Following purchase of the mine, the syndicate launched the Rio Tinto Company, registering it on March 29, 1873.

Following their purchase of the Rio Tinto mine in 1871, the new ownership constructed a number of new processing facilities, innovated new mining techniques, and expanded mining activities. From 1877 through 1891, the Rio Tinto mine was the world's leading producer of copper. The company also became the globe's top producer of sulphur and a leading supplier of pyrites.

From 1871 thru 1925, the company was inwardly focused on fully exploiting the Rio Tinto mine, with little attention paid to expansion or exploration activities outside of Spain. The company enjoyed strong financial success until 1914, cooperating with other pyrite producers to control market prices. However, World War I and its aftermath effectively eliminated the United States as a viable market for European pyrites, leading to a decline in the firm's prominence.

The company's failure to diversify during this period led to the slow decline of the company among the ranks of international mining firms. However, this changed in 1925, when Sir Auckland Geddes succeeded Lord Alfred Milner as chairman. Geddes and the new management team he installed focused on diversification of the company's investments and operations and reformation of marketing strategy. Geddes led the company into a series of joint ventures with customers in the development of new technologies, as well as exploration and develoment of new mines outside of Spain.

Perhaps most significant was the company's investment in copper mines in Rhodesia, which it eventually consolidated into the Rhokana Corporation. These and later efforts at diversification eventually allowed the company to divest from the Rio Tinto mine in Spain. By the 1950s, Franco's nationalistic government had made it increasingly difficult to exploit Spanish resources for the profit of foreigners. Rio Tinto Company, supported by its international investments, was able to divest two-thirds of its Spanish operations in 1954 and the remainder over the following years.

Like many major mining companies, the Rio Tinto Group has historically grown through a series of mergers and acquisitions.

The company's first major acquisition occurred in 1929, when the company issued stock for the purpose of raising 2.5 million pounds to invest in Rhodesian copper mining companies, which was fully invested by the end of 1930. The Rio Tinto company consolidated its holdings of these various firms under the Rhokana Corporation by forcing the various companies to merge.

Rio Tinto's investment in Rhodesian copper mines did much to support the company through troubled times at its Spanish Rio Tinto operations spanning the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and Franco's nationalistic policies. In 1950s the political situation made it increasingly difficult for mostly British and French owners to extract profits from Sapnish operations, and the company decided to dispose of the mines from which it took its name. Thus, in 1954 Rio Tinto Company sold two thirds of its stake in the Rio Tinto mines, disposing of the rest over the following years. The sale of the mines financed extensive exploration activities over the following decade.

The company's exploration activities presented the company with an abundance of opportunities; however it lacked sufficient capital and operating revenue to exploit those opportunities. This situation precipitated the next, and perhaps most significant, merger in the company's history. In 1962 Rio Tinto Company merged with the Australian firm Consolidated Zinc to form the Rio Tinto - Zinc Corporation ("RTZ") and its main subsidiary, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia ("CRA"). The merger provided Rio Tinto the ability to exploit its new-found opportunities, and gave Consolidated Zinc a much larger asset base.

RTZ and CRA were separately managed and operated, with CRA focusing on opportunities within Australasia and RTZ taking the rest of the world. However, the companies continued to trade separately, and RTZ's ownership of CRA dipped below 50% by 1986. Strategic needs of the two companies eventually led to conflicts of interest regarding new mining opportunities, and shareholders of both companies determined a merger was in their mutual best interest. In 1995, the companies merged into a dual listed company, in which management was consolidated into a single entity and share holder interests were aligned and equivalent, although maintained as shares in separately named entities. (For more detail, see Corporate Status section below.) The merger also precipitated a name change; after two years as RTZ-CRA, RTZ became Rio Tinto plc and CRA became Rio Tinto Limited, referred to collectively as Rio Tinto Group or simply Rio Tinto.

Major acquisitions following the Consolidated Zinc merger included U.S. Borax, a major producer of borax, bought in 1968, Kennecott Utah Copper and BP Australia's coal assets which were bought from British Petroleum in 1989 and a 70.7% interest in the New South Wales operations of Coal & Allied Industries also in 1989. In 1993 the Company acquired Nerco and also the United States coal mining businesses of Cordero.

In 2000 Rio Tinto acquired Northern Limited, an Australian company with iron ore and uranium mines, for $2.8 billion. The takeover was partially motivated as a response to Northern Limited's 1999 bid to have Rio Tinto's Pilbara railway network declared open access. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission regulatory body approved the acquisition in August 2000, and the purchase was completed in October of the same year. That year Rio Tinto also bought North Ltd and Ashton Mining for 4 billion USD, adding additional resources in aluminum, iron ore, diamonds, and coal. In 2001 it bought (under Coal and Allied Industries) the Australian coal businesses of the Peabody Energy Corporation.

On 14 November 2007 Rio Tinto bought Canadian aluminium company Alcan Inc. for $38.1 billion. Alcan's Chief Executive Dick Evans leads the new division, which has been renamed Rio Tinto Alcan and its headquarters situated in Montreal.

On 8 November 2007, rival mining company BHP Billiton announced it was seeking to purchase Rio Tinto Group in an all share deal. This offer was rejected by the board of Rio Tinto as it "significantly undervalues" the company. Another attempt by BHP Billiton for a hostile takeover valuing it at US$147 billion was rejected on the same grounds. Meanwhile, the Chinese Government-owned resources group Chinalco and the US aluminum producer Alcoa purchased 12 per cent of Rio Tinto's London-listed shares in a move that could block or severely complicate BHP Billiton's plans to buy its rival. In the six months from November 1, 2007 to April 1, 2008, Rio Tinto's daily closing NYSE share price increased 16% from US$361 to $420, soaring and dipping along the way between $478 and $331. The bid was withdrawn on November 25, 2008 due to market instability from the global recession.

In response to the global financial crisis and mounting debt problems, on December 10, 2008 Rio Tinto announced the cut of 14,000 jobs (5,500 employees and 8,500 contractors), a reduction in exploration budgets, and the closure of one of its two London offices.

In February 2009 Rio Tinto confirmed that it was in talks for Chinalco for them to take a significant stake in the Company.

These operating groups are supported by separate divisions providing exploration and technology services.

Rio Tinto Group is structured as a dual-listed company, with listings on both the London Stock Exchange (symbol: RIO) in London under the name Rio Tinto Plc and the Australian Securities Exchange (symbol: RIO) in Sydney under the name Rio Tinto Limited. The dual-listed company structure grants shareholders of the two companies the same proportional economic interests and ownership rights in the consolidated Rio Tinto Group, in such a way as to be equivalent to all shareholders of the two companies actually being shareholders in a single, unified entity. This structure was implemented in order to avoid adverse tax consequences and regulatory burdens. In order to eliminate currency exchange issues, the company's accounts are kept, and dividends paid, in United States dollars.

Rio Tinto is one of the largest companies listed on either exchange. As such, it is included in the widely-quoted indices for each market: the FTSE 100 Index of the London Stock Exchange, and the S&P/ASX 200 index of the Australian Securities Exchange . LSE-listed shares in Rio Tinto plc can also be traded indirectly on the New York Stock Exchange via an American Depositary Receipt.

Under the company's dual-listed company structure, management powers of the Rio Tinto Group are consolidated in a single senior management group led by a board of directors and executive committee. The board of directors has both executive and non-executive members, while the executive committee is composed of the heads of major operational groups.

Rio Tinto's main business is the production of raw materials including copper, iron ore, coal, bauxite, diamonds, uranium, and industrial minerals including titanium dioxide, talc, salt, gypsum, and borates. Rio Tinto also performs processing on some of these materials, with plants dedicated to processing bauxite into alumina and aluminium, and smelting iron ore into iron. The company also produces other metals and minerals as byproducts from the processing of its main resources, including gold, silver, molybdenum, sulfuric acid, nickel, potash, lead, and zinc.

Copper was one of Rio Tinto Group's main products from its earliest days operating at the Rio Tinto complex of mines in Spain. Since that time, the company has divested itself from its original Spanish mines, and grown its copper mining capacity through acquisitions of major copper resources around the world. The Copper group's main active mining interests are Minera Escondida in Chile, the Grasberg mine on Papua New Guinea, Kennecott Utah Copper in the United States, Northparkes in Australia, and Palabora in South Africa. Most of these mines are joint ventures with other major mining companies, with Rio Tinto's ownership ranging from 30% to 80%; only Kennecott is wholly owned. Operations typically include the mining of ore thru to production of 99.99% purified copper, including extraction of economically valuable byproducts. Together, Rio Tinto's share of copper production at its mines totaled nearly 700,000 tonnes, making the company the fourth-largest copper producer in the world.

Rio Tinto Copper continues to seek new opportunities for expansion, with major exploration activities at the Resolution Copper project in the United States, La Granja mine in Peru, and Oyuu Tolgoi in Mongolia. In addition, the company is seeking to become a major producer of nickel, with exploration projects currently underway in the United States and Indonesia.

Although not the primary focus of Rio Tinto Copper's operations, several economically valuable byproducts are produced during the refining of copper ore into purified copper. Gold, silver, molybdenum, and sulfuric acid are all removed from copper ore during processing. Due to the scale of Rio Tinto's copper mining and processing facilities, the company is also a leading producer of these materials, which drive substantial revenues to the company.

The Rio Tinto Group has consolidated its aluminium-related businesses in its Rio Tinto Alcan division. Rio Tinto Alcan was formed in late 2007, when Rio Tinto purchased the Canadian company Alcan for $38.1 billion. Combined with Rio Tinto's existing aluminium-related assets, the new Rio Tinto Alcan vaulted to the world number one producer of bauxite, alumina, and aluminium. Rio Tinto Alcan kept key leadership from Alcan, and the company's headquarters remain in Montreal.

Rio Tinto Alcan divides its operations into three main business units. The Bauxite and Alumina unit mines raw bauxite from locations in Australia, Brazil, and west Africa. The unit then refines the bauxite into alumina at refineries located in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and France. The Primary Metal business unit's operations consist of smelting aluminium from alumina, with smelters located in 11 countries around the world. The Primary Metal group also operates several power plants in order to support the energy-intensive smelting process. Finally, the Engineered Products unit processes aluminium into derivative products for specialty uses ranging from beverage containers to aerospace appliations.

All told, Rio Tinto Alcan has interests in seven bauxite mines and deposits, six alumina refineries and six specialty alumina plants, 26 aluminium smelters, 13 power plants, and 120 facilities for the manufacture of specialty products.

Rio Tinto Energy is a business group of Rio Tinto dedicated to the mining and sale of coal and uranium.

The company focuses on both fuel coal for electricity generation in coal power plants, and coking coal for use in iron and steel mills. The company's coal operations are located in Australia and the United States, mainly operating under its subsidiaries such as Rio Tinto Coal Australia and Rio Tinto Coal America. In 2009, Rio Tinto was engaged in an ongoing attempt to sell off assets of Rio Tinto Coal America. In March 2009, the company agreed to sell a major asset, the Jacob Ranch mine in Wyoming, to Arch Coal for $761 million, and is continuing to seek buyers for remaining assets in an effort to reduce corporate debt.

Rio Tinto's uranium operations are located at two mines: the Ranger Uranium Mine of Energy Resources of Australia and the Rössing Uranium Mine in Namibia. The company is the third-largest producer of uranium in the world. According to Rio Tinto's website, the company institutes strict controls and contractual limitations on uranium exports, limiting uses to peaceful, non-explosive uses only. Such controls are intended to limit use of the company's uranium production to use as fuel for nuclear power plants only, and not for use in the production of nuclear weapons.

Rio Tinto Diamonds operates three diamond mines: the Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia (100% ownership), the Diavik diamond mine in the Northwest Territories of Canada (60% ownership), and the Murowa diamond mine located in Zimbabwe (78% ownership). Together, these three mines produce 20% of the world's annual production of rough diamonds, making Rio Tinto the world's third-largest producer of mined diamonds.

The diamond business unit's most advanced exploration project is the Bunder Project in Madhya Pradesh, India, where Rio Tinto became the first foreign group to be granted a prospecting license there.

Rio Tinto Minerals is a diverse business group with mining and processing interest in borates, talc, salt, and gypsum. Rio Tinto Borax, with main operations in California and another mine in Argentine, supplies nearly half of the world's annual demand for refined borates, while the company's Luzenac Group subsidiary supplies 25% of global talc consumption. The Luzenac Group is also the only arm of the company with continuing active mining operations on the European continent: in addition to mines in North America and Australia, the company also operates a talc mine in southern France. The Minerals group is also majority owner of Dampier Salt, which produces over 9 million tonnes of salt and 1.5 millions of gypsum annually from its three facilities in northwest Australia.

Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium (RTIT) groups together the company's iron and titanium production. Rio Tinto is the world's second-largest supplier of iron ore, producing over 153 million tonnes in calendar year 2008. The company's major iron ore mines and development projects are located in Australia, South America, Canada, India, and Guinea. Major subsidiaries held within RTIT include Hamersley Iron, majority interest in the Pilbara Iron mines, and the Iron Ore Company of Canada. The company also has smelting facilities for the production of iron and steel, limited in size in comparison to the massive amount of iron ore produced, at QIT-Fer et Titane in Canada and HISmelt in Australia.

Titanium dioxide is mined at three locations in Canada, South Africa, and Madagascar, and refined at QIT-Fer et Titane's Canadian facilities. Major subsidiaries include Richards Bay Minerals of South Africa and QIT Madagascar Minerals. In 2008, Rio Tinto produced 1.524 million tonnes of titanium dioxide, or approximately 27% of the estimated global production of 5.6 million tonnes.

Rio Tinto owns the Borax company that produces borax and is famous for the "20 Mule Team" trademark which it shares with the Dial Corporation.

Rio Tinto also produces bauxite, gold, titanium, lead, zinc, cobalt, nickel and uranium.

The company also has a technology group conducting research and development, notably including the Hismelt iron smelting process, and an exploration group.

During the Spanish civil war (1936-39) Rio Tinto sold pyrites on credit which allowed General Franco to trade with Germany and finance the war against Republican Spain. British investment in Spain was also a major consideration for British non-intervention in Spain.

On September 29, 2008, Rio Tinto announced a fifteen year naming rights deal to the new stadium of Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake. The stadium, named Rio Tinto Stadium, is located in Sandy, Utah and accommodates just over 20,000 people. The deal is rumoured to be worth around $2 million per year for Real Salt Lake.

Rio Tinto has also won an award for ethical behaviour, the Worldaware Award for Sustainable development. However, although this award was decided by an independent committee, it was, like some other WorldAware Awards, sponsored by another multinational corporation (in this case, the sponsor was Tate and Lyle). Rio Tinto has, in turn, sponsored its own WorldAware award, the Rio Tinto Award for Long-term Commitment, which was awarded to a variety of local and multinational players including in 1999 to Shell Pakistan.

Environmental, political, safety and labour rights concerns have been raised against Rio Tinto by both environmental groups and unions, in particular the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). The CFMEU ran a campaign against the company which tried to de-unionise its workforce after the introduction of the Howard Government's Workplace Relations Act 1996.

Another has been Rio Tinto's involvement in Papua New Guinea which triggered the Bougainville separatist crisis. The British anti-poverty charity War on Want has criticised Rio Tinto for its complicity in the serious human rights violations which have been occurred near the mines it operates in Indonesia, West Papua and Papua New Guinea.

While RTZ has put a lot of energy into cleaning up its tainted human-rights image from the aftermath of crises like the above, many critics feel the company has not substantially changed.

Claims of severe environmental damages related to Rio Tinto's engagement in the Grasberg mine in Indonesia has led The Government Pension Fund of Norway to exclude Rio Tinto from its investment portfolio. The fund, which is said to be the second largest pension fund in the world, sold shares in the company at a value of NOK 4,85 bilion (US$ 855 million) in order to avoid the risk of contributing to environmental damages caused by the company.

As of 23 March 2009.

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The location of Melbourne

Melbourne (pronounced /ˈmelbən/) is the more common name for the geographic region and statistical division of the Greater Melbourne metropolitan area. It is the second most populous city in Australia, with a population of approximately 3.8 million (2007 estimate) and serves as the state capital of Victoria. Melbourne is located on the lower reaches of the Yarra River and on the northern and eastern shorelines of Port Phillip and their hinterland.

A tiny pastoral town established by settlers from Van Diemen's Land around the estuary of the Yarra (47 years after the first European settlement of Australia) was rapidly transformed into a wealthy metropolis by the Victorian gold rush and immigration. By 1865, Melbourne had become Australia's largest and most important city, and by the 1880s "Marvellous Melbourne" was one of the largest and richest cities in the world.

Many major international and national conferences and events have been held in Melbourne, including the 1956 Summer Olympics, 1981 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting the World Economic Forum in 2000, 2006 Commonwealth Games and the G20 summit.

Melbourne is a major centre of commerce, education, tourism, the arts and cultural activities, and also industry. It is consistently ranked one of the most liveable cities in the world. The city is recognised as Australia's 'sporting and cultural capital' and it is home to many of the nation's most significant cultural and sporting events and institutions. It has been recognised as a gamma world city by the Loughborough University group's 1999 inventory. Melbourne is notable for its mix of Victorian and contemporary architecture, its extensive tram network and Victorian parks and gardens, as well as its diverse, multicultural society.

Before the arrival of European settlers, the area was occupied for an estimated 31,000 to 40,000 years by under 20,000 hunter-gatherers from three indigenous regional tribes: the Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung and Wathaurong. The area was an important meeting place for clans and territories of the Kulin nation alliance as well as a vital source of food and water. The first European settlement in Victoria was established in 1803 on Sullivan Bay, near present-day Sorrento, but this settlement was abandoned due to a perceived lack of resources. It would be 30 years before another settlement was attempted.

In May and June 1835, the area that is now central and northern Melbourne was explored by John Batman, a leading member of the Port Phillip Association, who negotiated a transaction for 600,000 acres (2,400 km2; 940 sq mi) of land from eight Wurundjeri elders. Batman selected a site on the northern bank of the Yarra River, declaring that "this will be the place for a village", and returned to Launceston in Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen's Land). However, by the time a settlement party from the Association arrived to establish the new village, a separate group led by John Pascoe Fawkner had already arrived aboard the Enterprize and established a settlement at the same location, on 30 August 1835. The two groups ultimately agreed to share the settlement.

Batman's Treaty with the Aborigines was annulled by the New South Wales government (then governing all of eastern mainland Australia), which compensated the Association. Although this meant the settlers were now trespassing on Crown land, the government reluctantly accepted the settlers' fait accompli and allowed the town (known at first by various names, including 'Bearbrass') to remain.

In 1836, Governor Bourke declared the city the administrative capital of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales, and commissioned the first plan for the Hoddle Grid in 1837. Later that year, the settlement was named Melbourne after the British prime minister William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, who resided in the village of Melbourne in Derbyshire. Melbourne was declared a city by letters patent of Queen Victoria, issued on 25 June 1847. The Port Phillip District became a separate colony of Victoria in 1851 with Melbourne as its capital.

Before the arrival of white settlers, the indigenous population in the district was estimated at 15,000, but following settlement the number had fallen to less than 800, and continued to decline with an estimated 80% decrease by 1863, due primarily to introduced diseases, particularly smallpox.

The discovery of gold in Victoria in the 1850s led to the Victorian gold rush, and the rapid growth of the city, which provided most service industries and served as the major port for the region. During the optimistic 1850s and 1860s, the construction of many of Melbourne's institutional buildings began, including Parliament House, the Treasury Buildings, the State Library, Supreme Court, University, General Post Office, and Government House, as well as St Paul's and St Patrick's cathedrals. The city's inner suburbs were planned, to be linked by boulevards and gardens. Melbourne had become a major finance centre, home to several banks and to Australia's first stock exchange in 1861.

By the 1880s, Melbourne's boom was peaking. The city had become the second largest in the British Empire (after London), and the richest in the world. During this prosperous decade, Melbourne hosted five international exhibitions in the large purpose-built Exhibition Building.

During an 1885 visit, English journalist George Augustus Henry Sala coined the phrase "Marvellous Melbourne", which stuck long into the twentieth century. Growing building activity culminated in the "Land Boom" which in 1888 reached a peak of speculative development fuelled by optimism and escalating property prices. As a result of the boom, high-rise offices, commercial buildings, coffee palaces, terrace housing and palatial mansions proliferated in the city. This period also saw the expansion of a major radial rail-based transport network.

The brash boosterism which typified Melbourne during this time came to a halt in 1891 when the start of a severe depression hit the city's economy, sending the local finance and property industries into chaos during which 16 small banks and building societies collapsed and 133 limited companies went into liquidation. The Melbourne financial crisis helped trigger the Australian economic depression of 1890s and the Australian banking crisis of 1893. The effects of the depression on the city were profound, although it did continue to grow slowly during the early twentieth century.

At the time of Australia's federation on 1 January 1901, Melbourne became the temporary seat of government of the federation. The first federal parliament was convened on 9 May 1901 in the Royal Exhibition Building, where it was located until 1927, when it was moved to Canberra. The governor-general remained at Government House until 1930 and many major national institutions remained in Melbourne well into the twentieth century. While Sydney had overtaken Melbourne in size, Melbourne's transport networks were more extensive. Flinders Street Station was the world's busiest passenger station in 1927 and Melbourne's tram network overtook Sydney's to become the worlds largest in the 1940s. During World War II, Melbourne industries thrived on wartime production and the city became Australia's leading manufacturing centre.

After the war, Melbourne expanded rapidly, its growth boosted by an influx of immigrants and the prestige of hosting the Olympic Games in 1956. The post-war period saw a major urban renewal of the CBD and St Kilda Road which significantly modernised the city. New Melbourne City Council fire regulations and redevelopment saw most of the taller pre-war CBD buildings demolished, despite the efforts of the National Trust of Victoria and the Save Collins Street movement. Many of the larger suburban mansions from the boom era were either demolished or subdivided. The signs of Whelan the Wrecker became a symbol of Melbourne's progressive spirit during this era. To counter the trend towards low-density suburban residential growth, the government began a series of controversial "slum reclamation" public housing projects in the inner city which resulted in demolition of many neighbourhoods and a proliferation of high-rise housing-commission towers. In later years, increasing motor traffic led to major freeway development, causing the city to sprawl outwards. Under premier Henry Bolte, road projects including the Eastern Freeway, Monash Freeway, Tullamarine Freeway and the remodelling of St Kilda Junction changed the face of the city.

Australia's financial and mining booms between 1969 and 1970 resulted in establishment of the headquarters of many major companies (BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, among others) in the city. Nauru's then booming economy fuelled several ambitious investments in Melbourne, such as Nauru House. Melbourne remained Australia's business and financial capital until the late 1970s, when it began to lose this primacy to Sydney.

As the centre of Australia's "rust belt", Melbourne experienced the worst of Victoria's economic slump between 1989 to 1992, following the collapse of several of its financial institutions. In 1992 the newly elected Kennett Coalition government began a campaign to revive the economy with an aggressive development campaign of public works centred on Melbourne and the promotion of the city as a tourist destination with a focus on major events and sports tourism, attracting the Australian Grand Prix to the city. Major projects included the Melbourne Museum, Federation Square, the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, Crown Casino and CityLink tollway. Other strategies included the privatisation of some of Melbourne's services, including power and public transport, but also a reduction in funding to public services such as health and education.

Since 1997, Melbourne has maintained significant population and employment growth. There has been substantial international investment in the city's industries and property market. Major inner-city urban renewal has occurred in areas such as Southbank, Port Melbourne, Melbourne Docklands and, more recently, South Wharf.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that Melbourne sustained the highest population increase and economic growth rate of any Australian capital city in the three years ended June 2004.

Melbourne is located in the south-eastern part of mainland Australia, within the state of Victoria. Geologically, it is built on the confluence of Quaternary lava flows to the west, Silurian mudstones to the east, and Holocene sand accumulation to the southeast along Port Phillip. The southeastern suburbs are situated on the Selwyn fault which transects Mount Martha and Cranbourne.

Melbourne extends along the Yarra through the Yarra Valley toward the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Ranges to the east. It extends northward through the undulating bushland valleys of the Yarra's tributaries - Moonee Ponds Creek (toward Tullamarine Airport), Merri Creek, Darebin Creek and Plenty River to the outer suburban growth corridors of Craigieburn and Whittlesea. The city sprawls south-east through Dandenong to the growth corridor of Pakenham towards West Gippsland, and southward through the Dandenong Creek valley, the Mornington Peninsula and the city of Frankston taking in the peaks of Olivers Hill, Mount Martha and Arthurs Seat, extending along the shores of Port Phillip as a single conurbation to reach the exclusive suburb of Portsea and Point Nepean. In the west, it extends along the Maribyrnong River and its tributaries north towards Sunbury and the foothills of the Macedon Ranges, and along the flat volcanic plain country towards Melton in the west, Werribee at the foothills of the You Yangs volcanic peaks and Geelong as part of the greater metropolitan area to the south-west.

Melbourne's major bayside beaches are located in the south-eastern suburbs along the shores of Port Phillip Bay, in areas like Port Melbourne, Albert Park, St Kilda, Elwood, Brighton, Sandringham, Mentone and Frankston although there are beaches in the western suburbs of Altona and Williamstown. The nearest surf beaches are located 85 kilometres (53 mi) south-east of the Melbourne CBD in the back-beaches of Rye, Sorrento and Portsea.

Melbourne has a moderate oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb). and is well known for its changeable weather conditions. This is due in part to the city's flat topography, its situation on Port Phillip, and the presence of the Dandenong Ranges to the east, a combination that creates weather systems that often circle the bay. The phrase "four seasons in one day" is part of popular culture and observed by many visitors to the city.

Melbourne is colder than other mainland Australian state capital cities in the winter. The lowest maximum on record is 4.4 °C (39.9 °F), on 4 July 1901. However, snowfalls are extremely rare: the most recent occurrence of sleet in the CBD was on 25 July 1986 and the most recent snowfalls in the outer eastern suburbs and Mount Dandenong were on 10 August 2005, 15 November 2006, 25 December 2006 and 10 August 2008. More commonly, Melbourne experiences frosts and fog in winter.

During the spring, Melbourne commonly enjoys extended periods of mild weather and clear skies. On average, Melbourne is not as hot as more northern cities such as Sydney or Brisbane in summer, but occasionally experiences hotter and drier summer days, with maximum temperatures above 40 °C (104 °F) when northerly winds blow dry air from the arid Mallee region.

Like many urban environments, Melbourne faces some significant environmental issues. One such issue is water usage, drought and low rainfall. Drought in Victoria, low rainfalls and high temperatures deplete Melbourne water supplies and climate change will have a long-term impact on the water supplies of Melbourne.Melbourne has been in a drought since 1997. In response to low water supply's and low rainfall due to drought, the government implemented water restrictions and a range of other options including: water recycling schemes for the city, incentives for household water tanks, greywater systems, water consumption awareness initiatives, and other water saving and reuse initiatives; also, in June 2007, the Bracks Government announced that a $3.1 billion Wonthaggi desalination plant would be built on Victoria's south-east coast, capable of treating 150 billion litres of water per year, as well as a 70 km (43 mi) pipeline from the Goulburn area in Victoria's north to Melbourne and a new water pipeline linking Melbourne and Geelong.

In response to Attribution of recent climate change, the City of Melbourne, in 2002, set a target to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2020 however not all metropolitan municipalities have followed, with the City of Glen Eira notably deciding not to be carbon neutral.

Melbourne has one of the highest urban footprints in the world due to its low density housing, suburban sprawl, and car dependence due to minimal public transport outside of the inner city. Much of the vegetation within the city are non-native species, most of European origin, and in many cases plays host to invasive species and noxious weeds. Significant introduced urban pests include the Common Myna, Feral Pigeon, Common Starling, Brown Rat, European Wasp, and Red Fox. Many outlying suburbs, particularly those in the Yarra Valley and the hills to the north-east and east, have gone for extended periods without regenerative fires leading to a lack of saplings and undergrowth in urbanised native bushland, the Department of Sustainability and Environment partially addresses this problem by regularly burning off. Several national parks have been designated around the urban area of Melbourne, including the Mornington Peninsula National Park, Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park and Point Nepean National Park in the south east, Organ Pipes National Park to the north and Dandenong Ranges National Park to the east. There are also a number of significant state parks just outside Melbourne.

Responsibility for regulating pollution falls under the jurisdiction of the EPA Victoria and several local councils. Air pollution, by world standards, is classified as being good, however summer and autumn are the worst times of year for atmospheric haze in the urban area.

Another current environmental issue in Melbourne is the Victorian government project of channel deepening Melbourne Ports by dredging Port Phillip Bay - the Port Phillip Channel Deepening Project. It is subject to controversy and strict regulations among fears that beaches and marine wildlife could be affected by the disturbance of heavy metals and other industrial sediments. Other major pollution problems in Melbourne include levels of bacteria including E-coli in the Yarra River and its tributaries caused by septic systems, as well as up to 350,000 cigarette butts entering the storm water runoff every day. Several programs are being implemented to minimise beach and river pollution.

The original city (known today as the central business district or CBD) is laid out in the Hoddle Grid (dimensions of 1 by 0.5 miles (1.6 km × 0.80 km)), its southern edge fronting onto the Yarra. The city centre is well known for its historic and attractive lanes and arcades (the most notable of which are Block Place and Royal Arcade) which contain a variety of shops and cafes. The Melbourne CBD, compared with other Australian cities has comparatively unrestrictive height limits and as the result of waves of post war development contains five of the six tallest buildings in Australia, the tallest of these being the Eureka Tower. Prior to the Eureka tower, the Rialto tower was the tallest building in the CBD, which still has an observation deck which is open for the visitors. The CBD and surrounds also contain many significant historic buildings such as the Royal Exhibition Building, the Melbourne Town Hall and Parliament House. Although the area is described as the centre, it is not actually the demographic centre of Melbourne at all, due to an urban sprawl to the south east, the demographic centre being located at Bourne St, Glen Iris.

Melbourne is typical of Australian capital cities in that after the turn of the 20th century, it expanded with the underlying notion of a 'quarter acre home and garden' for every family, often referred to locally as the Australian Dream. Much of metropolitan Melbourne is accordingly characterised by low density sprawl. The provision of an extensive passenger railway and tram service in the earlier years of development encouraged this low density development, mostly in radial lines along the transport corridors.

Melbourne is often referred to as Australia's garden city, and the state of Victoria was once known as the garden state. There is an abundance of parks and gardens in Melbourne, many close to the CBD with a variety of common and rare plant species amid landscaped vistas, pedestrian pathways and tree-lined avenues. There are also many parks in the surrounding suburbs of Melbourne, such as in the municipalities of Stonnington, Boroondara and Port Phillip, south east of the CBD.

The extensive area covered by urban Melbourne is formally divided into hundreds of suburbs (for addressing and postal purposes), and administered as local government areas.

Melbourne is widely regarded as the cultural and sport capital of Australia. It has thrice shared top position in a survey by The Economist of the World's Most Livable Cities on the basis of its cultural attributes, climate, cost of living, and social conditions such as crime rates and health care, in 2002, 2004 and 2005. In recent years rising property prices have led to Melbourne being named the 36th least affordable city in the world and the second least affordable in Australia.

The city celebrates a wide variety of annual cultural events, performing arts and architecture. Melbourne is also considered to be Australia's live music capital with a large proportion of successful Australian artists emerging from the Melbourne live music scene. Street Art in Melbourne is becoming increasingly popular with the Lonely Planet guides listing it as a major attraction. The city is also admired as one of the great cities of the Victorian Age (1837-1901) and a vigorous city life intersects with an impressive range of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings.

Melbourne is a notable sporting location as the host city for the 1956 Summer Olympics games, the first Olympic Games ever held in Australia along with the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

In recent years, the city has claimed the SportsBusiness title "World's Ultimate Sports City". The city is home to the National Sports Museum, which until 2006 was located outside the members pavilion at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and reopened in 2008 in the Great Northern Stand.

Australian rules football and cricket are the most popular sports in Melbourne and also the spiritual home of these two sports in Australia and both are mostly played in the same stadia in the city and its suburbs. The first ever official cricket Test match was played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in March 1877 and the Melbourne Cricket Ground is the largest cricket ground in the world. The first Australian rules football matches were played in Melbourne in 1859 and the Australian Football League is headquartered at Etihad Stadium. Nine of its teams are based in the Melbourne metropolitan area and the five Melbourne AFL matches per week attract an average 40,000 people per game. Additionally, the city annually hosts the AFL Grand Final.

The city is also home to several professional franchises in national competitions including the Melbourne Storm (rugby league), who play in the NRL competition, Melbourne Victory (Association football (soccer)) who play in the A-league, netball team Melbourne Vixens who play in the trans-Tasman trophy ANZ Championship and basketball teams Melbourne Tigers and South Dragons who play in the National Basketball League.

Melbourne is home to the three major annual international sporting events in the Australian Open (tennis), Melbourne Cup (horse racing), and the Australian Grand Prix (Formula 1).

Melbourne is home to Australia's busiest seaport and much of Australia's automotive industry, which include Ford and Toyota manufacturing facilities, and the engine manufacturing facility of Holden. It is home to many other manufacturing industries, along with being a major business and financial centre. International freight is an important industry. The city's port, Australia's largest, handles more than $75 billion in trade every year and 39% of the nation's container trade. Melbourne Airport provides an entry point for national and international visitors.

Melbourne is also a major technology hub, with an ICT industry that employs over 60,000 people (one third of Australia's ICT workforce), has a turnover of $19.8 billion and export revenues of $615 million. Melbourne retains a significant presence of being a financial centre for Asia-Pacific. Two of the big four banks, NAB and ANZ, are headquartered in Melbourne. The city has carved out a niche as Australia’s leading centre for superannuation (pension) funds, with 40% of the total, and 65% of industry super-funds. Melbourne is also home to the $40 billion-dollar Federal Government Future Fund, and could potentially be home to the world's largest company should the proposed merger between BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Group be carried out. Tourism also plays an important role in Melbourne's economy, with approximately 7.6 million domestic visitors and 1.88 million international visitors in 2004. In 2008, Melbourne overtook Sydney with the amount of money that domestic tourists spent in the city.

The city is headquarters for many of Australia's largest corporations, including five of the ten largest in the country (based on revenue) (ANZ, BHP Billiton, the National Australia Bank, Rio Tinto and Telstra); as well as such representative bodies and thinktanks as the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Melbourne rated 34th within the top 50 financial cities as surveyed by the Mastercard Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index (2007), between Barcelona and Geneva, and second only to Sydney (14th) in Australia. Most recent major infrastructure projects, such as the redevelopment of Southern Cross Station (formerly Spencer Street Station), have been centred around the 2006 Commonwealth Games, which were held in the city from 15 March to 26 March 2006. The centrepiece of the Commonwealth Games projects was the redevelopment of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the stadium used for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games. The project involved rebuilding the northern half of the stadium and laying a temporary athletics track at a cost of $434 million. Melbourne has also been attracting an increasing share of domestic and international conference markets. Construction began in February 2006 of a $1 billion 5000-seat international convention centre, Hilton Hotel and commercial precinct adjacent to the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre to link development along the Yarra River with the Southbank precinct and multi-billion dollar Docklands redevelopment.

Melbourne is a diverse and multicultural city and melting pot. This is reflected by the fact that the city is home to restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world.

Almost a quarter of Victoria's population was born overseas, and the city is home to residents from 233 countries, who speak over 180 languages and dialects and follow 116 religious faiths. Melbourne has the second largest Asian population in Australia, which includes the largest Vietnamese, Indian and Sri Lankan communities in the country.

The first European settlers in Melbourne were British and Irish. These two groups accounted for nearly all arrivals before the gold rush, and supplied the predominant number of immigrants to the city until the Second World War. Melbourne was transformed by the 1850s gold rush; within months of the discovery of gold in August 1852, the city's population had increased by nearly three-quarters, from 25,000 to 40,000 inhabitants. Thereafter, growth was exponential and by 1865, Melbourne had overtaken Sydney as Australia's most populous city. Large numbers of Chinese, German and United States nationals were to be found on the goldfields and subsequently in Melbourne. The various nationalities involved in the Eureka Stockade revolt nearby give some indication of the migration flows in the second half of the nineteenth century.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Melbourne experienced unprecedented inflows from southern Europe, primarily Greece, Italy and Cyprus and West Asia mostly from Turkey, and Lebanon. According to the 2001 Census, there were 151,785 ethnic Greeks in the metropolitan area. 47% of all Greek Australians live in Melbourne. Ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese also maintain significant presences.

Melbourne exceeds the national average in terms of proportion of residents born overseas: 34.8% compared to a national average of 23.1%. In concordance with national data, Britain is the most commonly reported overseas country of birth, with 4.7 %, followed by Italy (2.4%), Greece (1.9 %) and then China (1.3 %). Melbourne also features substantial Vietnamese, Indian and Sri Lankan-born communities, in addition to recent South African and Sudanese influxes.

Over two-thirds of people in Melbourne speak only English at home (68.8 %). Italian is the second most common home language (4.0 %), with Greek third and Chinese fourth, each with over 100,000 speakers.

Melbourne is also home to a wide range of religious faiths. The largest of which is Christian (64%) with a large Catholic population (28.3%). However Melbourne and indeed Australia are highly secularised, with the proportion of people identifying themselves as Christian declining from 96% in 1901 to 64% in 2006 and those who did not state their religion or declared no religion rising from 2% to over 30% over the same period. Nevertheless, the large Christian population is signified by the city's two large cathedrals - St Patrick's (Roman Catholic), and St Paul's (Anglican). Both were built in the Victorian era and are of considerable heritage significance as major landmarks of the city.

The next highest response was No Religion (20.0%, 717,717), Anglican (12.1%, 433,546), Eastern Orthodox (5.9%, 212,887) and the Uniting Church (4.0%, 143,552). Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and Hindus collectively account for 7.5% of the population.

The Jewish population in Melbourne is significant as four out of ten Australian Jews call Melbourne home. The city is also residence to the largest number of Holocaust survivors of any Australian city, indeed the highest per capita concentration outside Israel itself. To service the needs of the vibrant Jewish community, Melbourne's Jewry have established multiple synagogues, which today number over 30, along with a local Jewish newspaper. Melbourne's largest university - Monash University is named after prominent Jewish general and statesman, John Monash.

Although Victoria's net interstate migration has fluctuated, the Melbourne statistical division has grown by approximately 50,000 people a year since 2003. Melbourne has now attracted the largest proportion of international overseas immigrants (48,000) finding it outpacing Sydney's international migrant intake, along with having strong interstate migration from Sydney and other capitals due to more affordable housing and cost of living, which have been two recent key factors driving Melbourne's growth. In recent years, Melton, Wyndham and Casey, part of the Melbourne statistical division, have recorded the highest growth rate of all local government areas in Australia. Despite a demographic study stating that Melbourne could overtake Sydney in population by 2028, the ABS has projected in two scenarios that Sydney will remain larger than Melbourne beyond 2056, albeit by a margin of less than 3% compared to a margin of 12% today. However, the first scenario projects that Melbourne's population overtakes Sydney in 2039, primarily due to larger levels of internal migration losses assumed for Sydney.

After a trend of declining population density since Second World War, the city has seen increased density in the inner and western suburbs aided in part by Victorian Government planning blueprints, such as Postcode 3000 and Melbourne 2030 which have aimed to curtail the urban sprawl.

Melbourne is served by three daily newspapers, the Herald Sun (a tabloid), The Age (broadsheet) and The Australian (national broadsheet). The free mX is also distributed every weekday afternoon at railway stations and on the streets of central Melbourne.

Melbourne is served by six television stations: HSV-7, which broadcasts from the Melbourne Docklands precinct; GTV-9, which broadcasts from their Richmond studios; and ATV-10, which broadcasts from the Como Complex in South Yarra. National stations that broadcast into Melbourne include the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which has two studios, one at Ripponlea and another at Southbank; and Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), which broadcasts from their studios at Federation Square in central Melbourne. C31 Melbourne is the only local community television station in Melbourne, and its broadcast range also branches out to Geelong. Melbourne also receives Pay TV, largely through cable services. Foxtel and Optus are the main Pay TV providers.

A number of radio stations service the areas of Melbourne and beyond on the AM and FM band. Popular stations on the FM band include DMG Radio channels Nova 100 and Vega 91.5 as well as Australian Radio Network's Gold 104.3 and Mix 101.1, both in Richmond, and Austereo channels Fox FM and Triple M, which share studios in South Melbourne and Triple J. Stations that are popular on the AM band include 774 ABC Melbourne, 3AW, a prominently talkback radio station, and its affiliate, Magic 1278, which plays a selection of music from the 1930s-60s. Community radio is also strong in Melbourne, with a number of community and subscription based radio stations on both the AM and FM bands. The best known of these stations are Triple R, SYN, 3JOY, PBS & 3CR. There are also a number of community stations based around the greater Melbourne area.

The Melbourne City Council governs the City of Melbourne, which takes in the CBD and a few adjoining inner suburbs. However the head of the Melbourne City Council, the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, is frequently treated as a representative of greater Melbourne (the entire metropolitan area), particularly when interstate or overseas. Robert Doyle, elected in 2008, is current Lord Mayor. The rest of the metropolitan area is divided into 31 local government areas. All these are designated as Cities, except for five on the city's outer fringes which have the title of Shire. The local government authorities have elected councils and are responsible for a range of functions (delegated to them from the State Government of Victoria under the Local Government Act of 1989), such as urban planning and waste management.

Most city-wide government activities are controlled by the Victorian state government, which governs from Parliament House in Spring Street. These include public transport, main roads, traffic control, policing, education above preschool level, and planning of major infrastructure projects. Because three quarters of Victoria's population lives in Melbourne, state governments have traditionally been reluctant to allow the development of citywide governmental bodies, which would tend to rival the state government. The semi-autonomous Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was abolished in 1992 for this reason. This is not dissimilar to other Australian states where State Governments have similar powers in greater metropolitan areas.

Education is overseen statewide by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD), whose role is to 'provide policy and planning advice for the delivery of education'. It acts as advisor to two state ministers, that for Education and for Children and Early Childhood Development.

Primary and secondary assessment, curriculum development and educational research initiatives throughout Melbourne and Victoria is undertaken by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA), which offers the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) and Achievement Improvement Monitor (AIM) certificates from years Prep through Year 10, and the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) and Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) as part of senior secondary programs (Years 11 to 12).

Many high schools in Australia are called 'Secondary Colleges', a legacy of the Kirner Labor government. There are two selective public schools in Melbourne (mentioned above), but all public schools may restrict entry to students living in their regional 'zone'.

Although non-tertiary public education is free, 35% of students attend a private primary or secondary school. The most numerous private schools are Catholic, and the rest are independent (see Public and Private Education in Australia).

Melbourne's two largest universities are the University of Melbourne and Monash University, the largest university in Australia. Both are members of the Group of Eight. Melbourne University ranked second among Australian universities in the 2006 THES international rankings. While The Times Higher Education Supplement ranked the University of Melbourne as the 22nd best university in the world, Monash University was ranked the 38th best university in the world. Melbourne was ranked the world's fourth top university city in 2008 after London, Boston and Tokyo.

Some of the nation's oldest educational institutions and faculities are located in Melbourne, including the oldest Engineering (1860), Medical (1862), Dental (1897) and Music (1891) schools and the oldest law course in Australia (1857), all at the University of Melbourne. The University of Melbourne is also the oldest university in Victoria and the second oldest university in Australia.

In recent years, the number of international students at Melbourne's universities has risen rapidly, a result of an increasing number of places being made available to full fee paying students.

The Government of Victoria's Department of Human Services oversees approximately 30 public hospitals in the Melbourne metropolitan region, and 13 health services organisations.

There are many major medical, neuroscience and biotechnology research institutions located in Melbourne: St. Vincent's Institute of Medical Research, Australian Stem Cell Centre, the Burnet Institute, Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute, Victorian Institute of Chemical Sciences, Brain Research Institute, Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre, Howard Florey Institute, the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and the Australian Synchrotron. Many of these institutions are associated with and are located near universities.

Melbourne has an integrated public transport system promoted under the Metlink brand. Originally laid out late in the 19th century when trains and trams were the primary methods of travelling to the suburbs, the 1950s saw an increase in private vehicles and freeway construction. This trend has continued with successive governments despite relentless traffic congestion, with a resulting drop in public transport modeshare from the 1940s level of around 25% to the current level of around 9% Melbourne's public transport system was privatised in 1999. Between 1999 and 2008, funding for road expansion was five times greater than public transport extension. Melbourne's tram network is the largest tram network in the world. Melbourne's is Australia's only tram network to comprise more than a single line. Sections of the tram network are on road, others are separated or light rail routes. The iconic trams are also recognised as a cultural asset and tourist attraction. Heritage trams operate on the free City Circle route, intended for visitors to Melbourne, and heritage restaurant trams travel through the city during the evening.

The Melbourne rail network consists of 19 suburban lines which radiate from the City Loop, a partially underground metro section of the network beneath the Central Business District (Hoddle Grid). Flinders Street Station is Melbourne's busiest railway station, and was the world's busiest passenger station in 1926. It remains a prominent Melbourne landmark and meeting place. The city has rail connections with regional Victorian cities, as well as interstate rail services to Sydney and Adelaide, which depart from Melbourne's other major rail terminus, Southern Cross Station in Spencer Street. Melbourne's bus network consists of almost 300 routes which mainly service the outer suburbs fill the gaps in the network between rail and light rail services. Melbourne has a high dependency on private cars for transport, with 7.1% of trips made by public transport. However there has been a significant rise in patronage in the last two years mostly due to higher fuel prices, since 2006, public transport patronage has grown by over 20%. The largest number of cars are bought in the outer suburban area, while the inner suburbs with greater access to train and tram services enjoy higher public transport patronage. Melbourne has a total of 3.6 million private vehicles using 22,320 km (13,870 mi) of road, and one of the highest lengths of road per capita. Major highways feeding into the city include the Eastern Freeway, Monash Freeway and West Gate Freeway (which spans the large Westgate Bridge), whilst other freeways circumnavigate the city or lead to other major cities, including CityLink, Eastlink, the Western Ring Road, Calder Freeway, Tullamarine Freeway (main airport link) and the Hume Freeway which links Melbourne and Sydney.

The Port of Melbourne is Australia's largest container and general cargo port and also its busiest. In 2007, the port handled two million shipping containers in a 12 month period, making it one of the top five ports in the Southern Hemisphere. Station Pier in Port Phillip Bay handles cruise ships and the Spirit of Tasmania ferries which cross Bass Strait to Tasmania. Melbourne has four airports. Melbourne Airport located at Tullamarine is the city's main international and domestic gateway. The airport is home base for passenger airlines Jetstar and Tiger Airways Australia and cargo airlines Australian air Express and Toll Priority and is a major hub for Qantas and Virgin Blue. Avalon Airport, located between Melbourne and Geelong, is a secondary hub of Jetstar. It is also used as a freight and maintenance facility. This makes Melbourne the only city in Australia to have a second commercial airport. Moorabbin Airport is a significant general aviation airport in the city's south east as well as handling a limited number of passenger flights. Essendon Airport, which was once the city's main airport before the construction of the airport at Tullamarine, handles passenger flights, general aviation and some cargo flights.

Gas is provided by private companies, as is electricity, which is sourced mostly from coal-fired power stations.

Water storage and supply for Melbourne is managed by Melbourne Water, which is owned by the Victorian Government. The organisation is also responsible for management of sewerage and the major water catchments in the region and will be responsible for the Wonthaggi desalination plant and the North-South Pipeline. Water is mainly stored in the largest dam, the Thomson River Dam which is capable of holding around 60% of Melbourne's water capacity, while smaller dams such as the Upper Yarra Dam and the Cardinia Reservoir carry secondary supplies.

Numerous telecommunications companies provide Melbourne with terrestrial and mobile telecommunications services and wireless internet services.

Some other local councils in the Melbourne metropolitan area have sister city relationships; see Local Government Areas of Victoria.

Melbourne is a member of the C40: Large Cities Climate Leadership Group and the United Nations Global Compact - Cities Programme.

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Source : Wikipedia