A promotional sign adorns a stage at a BHP Billiton function in central Sydney
Sydney – BHP Billiton is assuring shareholders that it’s exploring numerous options for its contentious US shale unit amid pressure from activist investor Elliott Management to carry out a wider review of petroleum operations.

In a series of meetings in Australia last week, chief executive Andrew Mackenzie stressed to shareholders that the biggest mining company is open to selling parts of the onshore portfolio.

Billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott wants an independent review of BHP’s oil unit and claims the miner has destroyed about $31 billion (R398 billion) in value through its foray into US shale and failed petroleum exploration.

Mackenzie’s message to investors on shale is “they want to try and extract maximum value out of the business and there’s a lot of different options,” said Andy Forster, a Sydney-based senior investment officer at Argo Investments, which owns BHP shares, and who attended a meeting.

“They still seem pretty wedded to the rest of the petroleum business.”

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BHP declined to comment on details of talks between Mackenzie and shareholders.

The producer said the executive was scheduled to hold investor talks to outline the Melbourne-based company’s growth plans.