BHP has announced that it will reduce payment terms for small, local and indigenous businesses in a bid to support its communities and regional economies during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company also said that it will hire 1,500 additional people under contract to support its workforce across BHP’s Australian operations.

It also plans to make immediate payments of outstanding invoices.

BHP said that the accelerated payment programme is expected to deliver around A$100m ($57m) more quickly to its small business partners.

BHP CEO, Mike Henry said: “We are taking action to reduce the risk of transmission at our sites, in our offices and in our communities.

“Our local and small business partners play a critical role in supporting our operations and our people, and we know this is a very difficult time for them. We must look out for each other as we manage through this together.”

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Henry added that the company will reduce payment terms to seven days, down from 30 days, for over 1,100 small businesses in Australia.

Recently, BHP, Fortescue Metals and Anglo American, and engineering consultancy firm Hatch collaborated on a new Green Hydrogen Consortium aiming to accelerate the production of renewable hydrogen.

With a brand value of $5.8bn, BHP topped the ranking of mining brands again, despite recording a 3% drop in brand value following a turbulent 2019.

Last month, the mining major warned that demand for iron ore could take a hit this year if the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic extends beyond this month.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 death toll has crossed 10,000 worldwide. A total of over 224,000 confirmed cases and 84,000 recoveries have been reported as of the end of 19 March.

Italy has rapidly become the most affected country in Europe, and the continent as whole is now considered as the epicentre of the pandemic. The death toll in Italy has increased by 427 in the last 24 hours to 3,405, exceeding the total fatalities reported in China.