THE tenure of BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers is expected to dominate the company's annual meeting with Australian shareholders in Sydney today.
Proxy advisers have given the company a clean bill of health while big shareholders are also much happier about the level of consultation with investors than they were a year ago, meaning Mr Kloppers' future looms as the elephant in the room.
|BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers|
Environmental and social activists have flocked to Sydney ahead of the event, with social media suggesting some have travelled from South America and Papua New Guinea.
PNG is home to the Ok Tedi copper mine that BHP handed over more than a decade ago after an environmental controversy.
Speaking in Canberra on Wednesday, PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said BHP was still influencing the fund that now controls Ok Tedi, and urged the company to keep its distance.
''There is no longer a valid reason for it to continue to exercise any control over the board appointments to that fund,'' he said.
Top executives from rival miner Rio Tinto are also in Sydney on Thursday, with the company hosting a long-awaited investor briefing.
Multiple analysts believe the briefing could see costs rise on the company's iron ore expansion plans in the Pilbara.
The expansion to 353 million tonnes of exports each year is believed to be ahead of schedule, but the persistently high Australian dollar is tipped to cause a cost blowout compared with original estimates.
Rio has long suggested that overall capital spending in 2013 will be around $US14 billion, but that number is expected to be revised.
The meeting will also be one of the first major outings for Rio's new diamonds boss Alan Davies, and investors will watch closely for any update on the company's plan to divest its diamond assets.
Rio has been considering a divestment or restructure of its diamond assets since March, and some have speculated that more value could be generated by spinning them out into an IPO rather than selling them to the highest bidder.