JP Morgan’s latest research on mining equities has some salient points to make on what investors should expect in terms of returns from mining houses over the next couple of years.

The bank pointed out that, after slashing costs over the past couple of years, and setting a higher bar for future project approvals, miners with strong exposure to well-supported markets such as iron ore or copper should start to generate strong free cash flow from the second half of the year.

In the years ahead, investors should expect more of that cash to be returned to shareholders or put into value-accretive share buybacks.

Leading the pack in this regard will be Rio Tinto, Glencore and possibly BHP Billiton, though in the case of the latter a lack of guidance on future investment criteria makes it more difficult to forecast future cashflow, JP Morgan analysts said.

Or, at least, that’s what Hotline thinks they said; he does admit, though, that some of the bank’s analysis was a little hard to unpack.

“With shares trading at a P/NPV of 0.85x, spot CY14/15E PERs of 9.2x/8.7x and JPMe/spot 5.6%/8.6% average FCF yield in CY14-16E, we maintain our Neutral recommendation on BHPB, though we do acknowledge scope for a near term narrowing of the RIO spread following BHPB’s 16% underperformance in H2’13,” the bank wrote on Wednesday, commenting on, well, something to do with BHP.