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Major miner BHP has celebrated the shipment of three billion tonnes of iron ore to China.

To celebrate the key milestone, a gala was held in Perth, Western Australia and a tour of BHP’s WA Iron Ore (WAIO) business was given.

The gala was attended by WA Premier Roger Cook and Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King, as well as representatives from the Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China.

“This is an incredibly significant milestone not only for BHP, but for this nation and countries like China, that have worked with us to create a world leading iron ore industry,” King said at the gala.

“This industry has underpinned the economic development of Western Australia and remains the backbone of the national economy.”

The tour involved BHP chief commercial officer Vandita Pant and BHP WAIO asset president Brandon Craig being joined by China Iron and Steel Association vice chairman Luo Tiejun, and other key customer representatives at the Mining Area C and South Flank mine sites in the Pilbara region.

They also toured BHP’s Port Hedland export facility to view the loading of a 210,000 metric tonne Capesize bulk carrier.

“BHP’s relationships with our customers in China have been fundamentally important to our company over the past 50 years,” Pant said.

“Through the reliable delivery of our high-quality iron ore resources and significant investment in steelmaking capability, together we have grown trade and provided the materials necessary for economic development globally.

“We look forward to building on our strong partnerships through collaboration to innovate and advance technologies with the potential to help decarbonise the steelmaking industry.”

BHP said it took nearly 30 years for it to deliver its first 100 million tonnes of iron ore to China, following its first shipment in 1973. It had shipped one billion tonnes by 2014 and credited significant investment and growth in its WAIO business to how it delivered three billion tonnes nine years later.

“This is a significant milestone for BHP’s iron ore business and for Western Australia, and we are delighted to commemorate the achievement, celebrate our partnerships and showcase our world-class WA operations,” Craig said.

“We are fully focused on continuing to produce and deliver our high-quality iron ore resources safely, reliably and sustainably.”

The milestone comes after BHP celebrated ten years of operations at its Jimblebar mine in WA.