BHP partners with China’s Baowu Steel on new iron ore sales approaches

Mining major BHP and China’s Baowu Steel Group are exploring new approaches of conducting iron ore transactions, including the adoption of payments in renminbi and blockchain technology.

BHP expects to be able to complete its first blockchain iron ore transaction with the Chinese steel group’s subsidiary, Baosteel, soon, the Melbourne-headquartered miner said on Tuesday May 12.

This follows the completion of its first iron ore transaction involving payment in the Chinese currency with Baosteel, worth close to 100 million yuan ($14 million), in April.

Both companies are studying how to apply cloud technology to iron ore sales “to improve business efficiency, remove paper from transactions, bring resilience across supply chains and potentially create new industry payment processing systems,” the miner said.

“The trials demonstrate new ways BHP is working with key customers to meet demand and generate mutual value - first bilaterally but progressively including other industry participants and the broader ecosystem,” Michiel Hovers, BHP group sales and marketing officer, said.

The move by BHP aligns with wider developments in the iron ore industry in recent years toward digitization and new transaction methods, especially involving renminbi payments amid the increasing importance of portside trading in China.

Last year, Brazil’s Vale diversified its iron ore sales to include yuan-denominated futures contract pricing. It was the first global miner to adopt such an approach.

The trade involved Vale’s Shanghai branch signing a deal with the trading arm of Shandong Laigang Yongfeng Steel for a cargo of Brazilian Blend fines delivered to the Port of Qingdao priced against the May 2020 iron ore futures contract on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange.

Mining major Rio Tinto also said last year that it would start selling iron ore products - including its SP10 brand - in China’s port market.

The digitization of the iron ore market has also received a major push over the last few years.

Trader Cargill completed its first e-contract transaction for iron ore with China’s Ningbo Iron & Steel last year, which involved 170,000 tonnes of Australian iron ore.

Rio Tinto and Cargill also concluded a paperless transaction for iron ore last year.

A consortium including Singapore’s DBS Bank and commodity trading firm Trafigura completed its first pilot trade on an open-sourced blockchain trading platform in November last year, which involved $20 million worth of iron ore to be shipped from Africa to China.

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