Rio Tinto has reached the historic milestone of exporting three billion tonnes of iron ore from Australia, highlighting the exponential growth of the Pilbara since its first shipment of the essential steel-making ingredient in 1966.
The three billionth tonne was loaded on to the Pacific Ruby, a Cape-size vessel berthed at Rio Tinto’s recently expanded Cape Lambert port.
The 240,000 tonne cargo contained iron ore from the Yandicoogina and Mesa J mines, and was bound for POSCO, the largest South Korean steel producer.
Rio Tinto operates 11 mines and three terminals at two ports in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, and total ore exports from the Cape Lambert and Dampier ports passed the three-billion tonne mark at about mid-morning (WST) yesterday.
Rio Tinto’s first shipment of iron ore from Australia – 52,000 tonnes of Tom Price ore – was sent on 22 August 1966.
The Huon Maru set sail from Dampier bound for Japan, for eventual steel production by Yawata Iron and Steel (Nippon Steel).
In 1972, Robe River Mining (now 53% Rio Tinto) began exporting iron ore from the newly built port at Cape Lambert, while Hamersley Iron (100% Rio Tinto) opened its second port terminal in Dampier later that year.
In 2009, Rio Tinto plans to export 200 million tonnes of iron ore, virtually all of it from the Pilbara, compared with the then-impressive total of 761,000 tonnes exported in 1966.