Her Excellency Governor Kerry Sanderson.

Premier Colin Barnett and State Parliamentary colleagues past and present.

Jean-Sebastien Jacques, CEO Rio Tinto and Chris Salisbury, CEO Iron Ore.

Directors, employees, suppliers, contractors, partners and friends of Rio Tinto from around the world.

Tonight is not only a recognition of a significant milestone in the history of Rio Tinto, it marks a significant milestone in the history of this state, our nation and our region.

50 years ago on 22 August 1966 Rio Tinto sent its first shipment of iron ore from the Pilbara to Japan. Of course the genesis of Rio Tinto's connections to Australia stretch back a further 50 years to around the beginning of the last century.

It was in 1897 when a young American came to Kalgoorlie seeking his fortune in the Gold Rush. He was a graduate from the first class of Stanford University and he became a very successful mining engineer in this State, floating Sons of Gwalia in 1898. In 1905 he co-founded Zinc Corporation which became Consolidated-Zinc of Broken-Hill.

He returned to the United States a much wealthier man and was then subsequently elected the 31st President of the United States. Herbert Hoover would doubtless be astounded to learn that his Zinc-Corporation would eventually merge with Rio Tinto to become Rio Tinto-Zinc-Corporation (RTZ) and of course now the mighty global leader, Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto group employs over 55,000 people in forty countries across six continents. It has at times had a market capitalisation in excess of $100 billion. Its growth has not been due to luck or by accident, particularly in iron ore.

In 1960 the Menzies Government lifted a two decades old embargo on iron ore exports that had been imposed because of a fear that there weren't enough iron ore reserves for our domestic economy. Thereafter the unfolding story of the iron ore industry in this state, in this country, is all about courage and determination, enterprise and entrepreneurialism, imagination and innovation. Rio Tinto has been at the forefront, whether it's deploying Australia's first self-driving vehicle in remote corners of Western Australia, to using drones for better surveillance and inspections, to systems that analyse billions of bytes of data from equipment sensors to better detect or prevent equipment failures.

Innovation has been at the heart of this company's business and as a mining company it has been every bit as innovative as the most advanced high tech companies on the planet and Australia has been the beneficiary. Australia is highly valued in Asia as a reliable and efficient trading partner and that is due in no small part to the reputation and the relationships that Rio Tinto has built as an exporter of iron ore to developing economies. First Japan, then South Korea, Taiwan and then of course China.

The pace of industrialisation and urbanisation in East Asia over the past fifty years has been more rapid than any other region at any other point in human history. Rio Tinto has played an essential role in building the cities and the transport links of contemporary modern Asian and in doing so, Rio Tinto has played an essential role in building the Western Australian economy, our national prosperity and helping make Australia the global mining and energy super power that it is today.

Tonight we salute Rio Tinto and its people for these achievements.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
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