Rio Tinto-related entities have been doing business with Japan since at least 1961, with Comalco’s first trial shipment of bauxite from Australia to Japan.

Shortly after that, to meet the demand for steel driven by Japan’s rapid economic growth, the Japanese steel mills entered into long-term contracts for offtake of iron ore with Hamersley Iron, which is now part of Rio Tinto Iron Ore. This enabled the development of Rio Tinto’s first iron ore mine in the Pilbara, Mount Tom Price. The first iron ore from the mine was shipped to Japan in August 1966.

1966: First export shipment of Hamersley Iron ore

RTZ Japan was established in 1966. This was followed by Comalco Japan, which is now part of Rio Tinto Aluminium, being established in 1970. After this, Hamersley Japan, Dampier Salt Japan and other companies were merged to form CRA Japan. Finally, RTZ Japan and CRA Japan were merged to become RTZ-CRA Japan in 1996, which was renamed Rio Tinto Japan in 1997. 

Rio Tinto Japan has been operating in its current form since absorbing Comalco Japan in 2001 and taking over the Alcan Asia Japan branch’s operations in 2008.

In July 2014, Rio Tinto was honoured to host Japanese Prime Minister Abe and then-Australian Prime Minister Abbott at our West Angelas mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. West Angelas is one of the iron ore mines owned by Robe River Iron Associates, a joint venture in which Rio Tinto partners with Japanese companies Mitsui & Co. and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metals Corporation. This was the first visit by a sitting Japanese prime minister to a Rio Tinto mine.