BHP Billiton, known traditionally as Big Australian, is now the largest diversified resource company in the world. Its dual headquarters and dual stock listings in Britain and Australia reflect the fact that the business is the result of the 2001 merger of BHP (formerly Broken Hill Proprietary, a mining giant in Australia) and Billiton of South Africa. Aside from its extensive extractive operations in its home countries, the company is also active in places such as Chile (copper), Colombia (coal and nickel) and Canada (diamonds).
Over the past decade, Brazil-based Vale has evolved from a large but little known producer of iron ore to one of the world’s mining leviathans—the only one based in the global south. The major factor in its growth was the US$19 billion acquisition of Canada’s big nickel producer Inco in 2006. It also made an aborted effort to acquire the Swiss mining giant Xstrata. Originally a government-owned firm called Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (literally, “sweet river valley company"), Vale was privatized in 1997.