Government of Western Australia Official Site


BHP Billiton and partners ships one billionth tonne of iron ore to Japan



On 2nd July, BHP Billiton and its joint venture participants, employees and customers in Port Hedland, WA, celebrated the shipment of its one billionth tonne of iron ore to Japan. BHP Billiton President Iron Ore Jimmy Wilson and BHP Billiton President HSE, Marketing and Technology Mike Henry were joined by joint venture participants ITOCHU Corporation (ITOCHU) and Mitsui & Co., Ltd (Mitsui) to mark the milestone in front of the Saiko, which was bound for Japan.

Mr Henry acknowledged Japan’s industrial transformation and the importance of two-way trade in driving economic growth. “In the late 1960s and through the 1970s, Japan grew to become an economic powerhouse through its expertise in steel manufacturing, heavy industry, technology and electronics,” he said. “As Japan’s economy grew, the iron ore we exported came back to Australia as high-quality manufactured products like motor vehicles and the rolling stock and rail equipment we rely on in the resources industry. Today the high-quality iron ore we export from the Pilbara is an essential ingredient for Japan’s high-tech steel industry which leads the world in technology and efficiency.

Speaking at the event in Port Hedland, Mr Wilson recognised Japan’s contribution to the development of the Pilbara. “BHP Billiton shipped its first tonne of iron ore to Japan in 1966 and we are proud of the nation-building role we have helped play since that time,” he said. “We also owe much to Japan for their role in growing the iron ore industry in the Pilbara. Our joint venture participants ITOCHU and Mitsui contributed capital, and as trading companies they were a key link into Japanese markets.

In 2013, BHP agreed to sell 15 per cent of its stake in the Jimblebar iron ore mine to ITOCHU and Mitsui for $US1.5 billion. The deal was aimed at aligning ITOCHU’s and Mitsui’s interests across BHP’s Pilbara iron ore operations so assets could be operated in a straightforward and flexible way. As part of the deal, the ITOCHU and Mitsui will receive an annual output of over 5 million tonnes, plus shares of future production increases.

The opening of the Jimblebar mine earlier this year has taken BHP Billiton’s Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) capacity to in excess of 220 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) (100 per cent basis). Longer term, a low-cost option to expand Jimblebar to 55 Mtpa and the broader debottlenecking of the supply chain is expected to underpin capital efficient growth in WAIO capacity to approximately 270 Mtpa.

“The good relationships we have between customers, employees, Indigenous land owners, ITOCHU and Mitsui have been and continue to be crucial to the success of the Western Australian business,” Mr Wilson said.