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BHP defends dividend policy, launches Samarco probe

Mining giant BHP Billiton on Thursday defended its progressive dividend policy even as share prices and profits slump this year amid slowing growth in China and a recent mine disaster in Brazil.

Describing 2015 as the "most difficult in our 130 years", BHP chairman Jacques Nasser said at BHP's annual general meeting in Perth that the dividend policy—which aims to steadily increase or at least maintain the dividend per share at each financial year—is the outcome of "appropriate capital management".

He added that maintaining a solid "A"-rated balance sheet was BHP's top priority and that its dividend policy has serviced shareholders well.

"As an industry we are dealing with global tensions; the challenges of climate change; steep falls in commodity prices and reshaping our operations and portfolios to deal with a new...