If commodity prices continue their current strength, Anglo American will soon have a problem that mining executives love and shareholders have learnt to feel some apprehension about — too much cash. It is not alone. SP Angel analyst John Meyer says the top four London-listed miners (BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Glencore) have together generated US$26.7bn in free cash flow in their most recent period. In the mining boom of 2001-2008, surplus cash and pressure to demonstrate growth options spurred large mining companies to splurge on unwise acquisitions and costly projects. Anglo was no exception. It was criticised for the Minas-Rio greenfields iron ore project in Brazil, which is still not at full production and will take a long time to repay the $14bn of capital invested (including $5.5bn to buy it).At its lowest point, in 2008, the group had to suspend dividend payments, to the fury of longstanding shareholders. Anglo’s priorities, says CEO Mark Cutifani, are to pay ...

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