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Itochu, Mitsui to Invest $1.5 Billion in BHP Iron Ore

Itochu Corp. and Mitsui & Co. agreed to invest $1.5 billion in BHP Billiton Ltd.’s Jimblebar mining unit, extending the Japanese traders’ interests in the company’s Western Australian iron-ore operations.

Itochu will invest about $800 million and Mitsui about $700 million in equity and loans, Melbourne-based BHP said yesterday in a statement. The deal is subject to approval from the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board and is expected to be completed in the third quarter.

A new mine under construction at Jimblebar will have an initial production capacity of 35 million metric tons a year, bringing BHP’s West Australian iron-ore operations’ capacity to 220 million tons, according to the statement. Itochu and Mitsui have a combined 15 percent stake in the operations.

BHP, the world’s biggest mining company, fell 0.6 percent to A$31.97 as of 12:46 p.m. in Sydney trading. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.4 percent.

The Melbourne-based producer, which previously owned 100 percent of the Jimblebar operation, said in 2011 it will spend $3.3 billion to develop the mine and rail links.

Itochu and Mitsui’s investment includes a contribution to the development costs, Itochu said in a statement, without specifying a figure.

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