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The following News Release was issued at Newcastle, New South Wales (NSW) in Australia earlier today.

BHP Billiton today welcomed the New South Wales Government's decision to proceed with the transfer of four BHP Billiton properties in the Newcastle area, totalling 2,300 hectares, to public ownership.

The properties covered by the land transfer are the 150 hectare former Newcastle Steelworks Main Site, 230 hectares at Kooragang Island, 500 hectares at Belmont Sands and 1,500 hectares at West Wallsend. BHP Billiton will also pay AUD$100 million to the NSW Government to cover environmental remediation work at the former steelworks site and Kooragang Island.

The agreement to proceed follows an extensive evaluation by the NSW Government to examine the costs and benefits of the land transfer and provides BHP Billiton with an indemnity from future environmental responsibilities for the properties.

The agreement also includes a payment to BHP Billiton for the valuation of the former steelworks site which has an approved development application for a multi-purpose shipping terminal.

In addition, BHP Billiton will continue to be responsible for demolition at the former steelworks site at a cost of around AUD$25 million.

The cost of environmental remediation and demolition associated with the land transfer has been raised previously in accounting provisions as part of the Newcastle steelworks closure.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two parties BHP Billiton provided all necessary information to enable the NSW Government and its agents to conduct its due diligence assessment on the properties which included a detailed review of contamination at the former Newcastle steelworks site and Kooragang Island.

The remediation plans for the sites were approved by the NSW Environment Protection Authority and meet all stringent requirements.

The environmental remediation plan for the former steelworks involves capping the site with a layer of inert material and the installation of a groundwater treatment system.

BHP Billiton retains responsibility for the sediment in the Hunter River adjacent to the former steelmaking site and is undertaking a remediation options study with results to be provided to NSW Environment Protection Authority in December.

The land transfer delivers strategic properties into public ownership and provides the opportunity for future employment generating investment.

The drafting of legal agreements between BHP Billiton and NSW Government has commenced with finalisation of the transaction expected within 3 to 4 months.

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