BHP billion: Japanese iron ore milestone met

Australian mining giant BHP Billiton has marked a significant milestone in its iron ore mining and export program in WA.

Jimmy Wilson, BHP’s president for iron ore, joined marketing and technology president Mike Henry in Port Hedland where they met with representatives from joint venture partners ITOCHU and Mitsui to mark the billionth tonne of iron ore sent to Japan by the miner.

BHP's export operation at Port Hedland, WA. Photo - Southern Cross Maritime.

BHP’s export operation at Port Hedland, WA. Photo – Southern Cross Maritime.

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.

Over the past decade, BHP has invested roughly $25bn in its WA mines, rail and port infrastructure.

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

With the opening of the Jimblebar mine earlier this year, BHP’s iron ore capacity in WA is now in excess of 220mtpa. An option to expand Jimblebar to 55mtpa and the broader debottlenecking of the supply chain has the potential to expand the capacity of the miner’s current WA assets to as much as 270mtpa, Wilson added.

In recent months iron ore prices have declined significantly. But Henry, the miner’s head of iron ore marketing, said recent closures of Chinese iron ore mines would help lift that price again and thus help BHP capitalise on that increased capacity.

“One of the things we are seeing this time around is that as a lot of new low-cost supply came to market over the course of the last six to 12 months, the response from high-cost suppliers was slower than it has been historically,” Henry was quoted by The Australian.

“But over the past few weeks we are starting to see some of that high-cost supply shut in, and that’s one of the things that’s started to buoy iron ore prices over the past week or so.”

Referring back to the reason for yesterday’s Port Hedland get together, Henry spoke about 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.”

Source from here