A postcard from Saskatchewan, Canada

Passing through Canada's potash mining heartland.

I have just completed a truly magnificent train journey from Toronto to Vancouver.

I had not planned to send a postcard because I will be writing to you from Australia this week.

But I could not resist it. As we passed through the Saskatchewan fertile plains mounds of Potash Corp's mining waste dominated the horizon. 

Memories flooded back. It reminded me of just how lucky Australian BHP shareholders were to have the Canadian government block BHP's $US40 billion bid for Potash Corp.

BHP would have lost about two thirds of the bid's value because the potash price subsequently slumped. As the train passed the mines I was reminded how important investment timing has become.

The acquisition of Potash Corp made sense strategically but the potash price was dominated by the Russians and they opened the floodgates.

It was also a reminder that we all make mistakes.

We have to learn from them and move on.

BHP's current executives are aware of the mistakes the company made in the boom and the close shaves it had with disaster. BHP unsuccessfully bid for Rio Tinto at an inflated price and might have proceeded with the vast open cut Olympic Dam mine but for South Australia government environmental delays.

My modern equivalent of BHP's disaster brush is the risks created by unsustainable capital values as a result of negative interest rates.

Best wishes, 

Robert Gottliebsen 


Robert Gottliebsen is currently travelling and his regular column will return shortly.