Rio Tinto celebrates historic milestone of five billion tonnes of iron ore with a shipment to Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation

17 May 2017

[Tokyo, Japan] Rio Tinto reached the historic milestone of five billion tonnes of iron ore exported from its world-leading operations in Western Australia’s Pilbara region in April with a shipment to Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation in Japan.

Just seven months after the 50th anniversary of the first Rio Tinto shipment of Pilbara iron ore in 1966, the five billionth tonne was carried on the bulk carrier MV Onozuru Maru to two ports in Japan.

At a ceremony to mark the milestone in Japan, Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said "Shipping five billion tonnes is a remarkable achievement and it is fitting that it was delivered to Japan, our first customer and valued long-term partner.

"Our Japanese partners have been with us side-by-side over the past 50 years - it is wonderful that they are again part of another important milestone in Rio Tinto and Australia’s iron ore history."

"Rio Tinto and Australian iron ore has been critical to the development of modern Japan. From the car industry to nation-building infrastructure, Rio Tinto’s steel-making iron ore has been a key ingredient in Japan’s rise as a global economic powerhouse. We are honoured to have played a small role in this remarkable story."

Rio Tinto’s first shipment of iron ore from Australia – 52,000 tonnes from its first iron ore mine, Mount Tom Price, - was sent on 22 August 1966. The MV Houn Maru set sail from Dampier bound for Japan, for eventual steel production by Yawata Iron and Steel (now part of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation). The development of that mine and the necessary infrastructure to transport the ore had been underwritten by the Japanese steel mills in the 1960s through long-term off-take contracts that were revolutionary at the time.

To mark the export of five billion tonnes, plaques were exchanged with the Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation at a ceremony in Tokyo on 16 May.

Rio Tinto operates the world’s largest integrated portfolio of iron ore assets in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. This includes an integrated network of 15 iron ore mines, four port facilities, a 1,700 kilometre rail network and related infrastructure supported by an Operations Centre in Perth.

Notes for editors:

About Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and New York Stock Exchange listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Rio Tinto's business is finding, mining, and processing mineral resources. Major products are aluminium, copper, diamonds, thermal and metallurgical coal, uranium, gold, industrial minerals (borax, titanium dioxide and salt) and iron ore. Activities span the world and are strongly represented in Australia and North America with significant businesses in South America, Asia, Europe, and southern Africa.

About Rio Tinto and Japan

Japan is one of Rio Tinto’s most important and longstanding trading partners. Rio Tinto’s iron ore business was born on the back of Japanese investment and long-term offtake contracts with the Japanese steel mills in the 1960’s. Today Rio Tinto is the largest supplier of iron ore to Japan, shipping over 1.8 billion tonnes to date over the past more than 50 years.

Rio Tinto, as a group, is also the largest exporter of metals and minerals to Japan, supplying aluminium, copper, diamonds, thermal and metallurgical coal, uranium and industrial minerals (titanium dioxide and salt) as well as iron ore to more than 100 customers. Japanese companies are important partners in Rio Tinto’s operations around the world, its global supply chain as well as in innovation.