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BHP Billiton Ships Billionth Ton of Iron Ore to Japan

Australia's Port Hedland today.
Nelson Point, Port Hedland in 1968.

Australian mining giant BHP Billiton has hit a new milestone, shipping its billionth ton of iron ore to Japan.

The company, which shipped its first ton to Japan in 1966, celebrated the achievement with customers, joint venture participants and employees at Port Hedland in Western Australia.

“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,” said BHP president of iron ore Jimmy Wilson.

“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.”

Western Australia’s Pilbara region was built on Japan’s demand for the precious metal in the late 1960s and 70s. It helped shape the heavy industry, manufacturing and technology sectors WA enjoys today.

“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,” said Wilson.

Iron ore production has grown since 1966. BHP’s production capacity now reaches 220 million tons per year and growing. According to Wilson, BHP is putting all the necessary components together to ensure the Australia’s mining industry prospers for a very long time.

“Over the past decade, we have invested US$24 billion in Western Australia’s mines, rail and port infrastructure and continue to adopt new technology to ensure our operations remain world-class,” said Wilson.

“As we enter our next phase of growth, we are continuing to improve our productivity, optimizing our installed capacity and working our assets harder and smarter to deliver on our customers’ expectations.”

BHP Billiton expects to ship its billionth ton of iron ore to China later this year.