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The iron ore delivery started from Port Hedland on the Mv Anangel Explorer tanker to Posco’s steel mills in South Korea.

Hancock executive director Tad Watroba said: "The initial shipments, such as this one today from Roy Hill, will only represent a small portion of its capacity of 55Mtpa and their assessments don’t take into account that over 50% of Roy Hill’s output will be taken by the minority investment partners who are outside of China.

"With more than 90% of Roy Hill’s production secured under long-term contracts very little ore will actually enter the spot iron ore market."

The $10bn Roy Hill Project includes an integrated open pit iron ore mine, rail and port facilities.

Estimated to hold potential reserves of more than 2.4 billion tons, the Roy Hill mine is expected to produce 55 million tons of iron ore annually over a 20-year operations life.

Hancock and Roy Hill chairman Gina Rinehart said: "Given that the mega Roy Hill Project was a largely greenfield project that carried with it significant risks and considerable cost, it is remarkable that a relatively small company such as Hancock Prospecting has been able to take on and complete a project of this sheer size and complexity.

"The Roy Hill Project has recorded many achievements already and with the first shipment it will also hold one of the fastest construction start-ups of any major greenfield resource project in Australia."

Hancock Prospecting owns 70% stake in the project while the remaining 30% stake is held by a consortia comprising Posco with 12.5% interest, Marubeni 15%, and China Steel 2.5%.

Image: Roy Hill rail transporting iron ore. Photo: courtesy of Marubeni Corporation.