On July 2, BHP Billiton celebrated the shipment of its 1 billionth ton of iron ore to Japan with customers, joint venture participants and employees in Port Hedland, Western Australia. BHP Billiton President Iron Ore Jimmy Wilson and BHP Billiton President HSE, Marketing and Technology Mike Henry were joined by joint venture participants ITOCHU Corp. and Mitsui & Co. Ltd to mark the milestone in front of the Saiko bound for Japan.

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,” Henry said.

Speaking at the event, Wilson recognized Japan’s contribution to the development of the Pilbara. “BHP Billiton shipped its first ton of iron ore to Japan in 1966, and we are proud of the nation-building role we have helped play since that time,” Wilson 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.”

“Over the past decade, we have invested $24 billion in Western Australia’s mines, rail and port infrastructure, and continue to adopt new technology to ensure our operations remain world-class,” he said. “As we enter our next phase of growth, we are continuing to improve our productivity, optimize our installed capacity, and work our assets harder and smarter to deliver on our customers’ expectations.”

The opening of the Jimblebar mine earlier this year has taken Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) capacity to in excess of 220 million metric tons per year (mt/y). Longer term, a low-cost option to expand Jimblebar to 55 million mt/y and the broader debottlenecking of the supply chain is expected to underpin capital efficient growth in WAIO capacity to approximately 270 million mt/y.

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