BHP sells mine stake

BHP Billiton has sold a 15 per cent stake in a West Australian iron ore mine to two Japanese conglomerates for $US1.5 billion ($1.64 billion).

BHP Billiton has sold a 15 per cent stake in a West Australian iron ore mine to two Japanese conglomerates for $US1.5 billion ($1.64 billion).

Itochu is investing $US800 million while Mitsui is stumping up $US700 million in shares and loans in BHP's Jimblebar mine in the Pilbara.

Itochu will hold an 8 per cent stake in the project, and Mitsui 7 per cent.

BHP Billiton's iron ore president, Jimmy Wilson, said the deal would improve simplicity and flexibility. "We are pleased to extend our successful, long-standing joint venture relationship with Itochu and Mitsui," he said in a statement.

The Foreign Investment Review Board has to approve to the transaction for the mine, rail and port infrastructure project, which is expected to be signed in the September quarter.

The Jimblebar mine will have initial production capacity of 35 million tonnes a year, rising to 220 million tonnes once it becomes fully operational.

The mine will have an initial 35 million-tonne-a-year capacity and forms part of BHP's plan to boost its output in the Pilbara to 220 million tonnes from 185 million tonnes by financial 2016.

The Jimblebar mine is expected to begin production in early 2014.

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