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Number 08/07

BHP Billiton today announced approval for the Rapid Growth Project 4 (RGP4) which will increase system capacity across its Western Australian iron ore operations to 155 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa). Initial production is expected to commence in the first half of CY2010.

BHP Billiton has approved capital expenditure of US$1.85 billion for its share of the project, which includes development of a new crushing and screening plant, as well as additional stockyards, car dumping and train loading facilities at Mt Whaleback. Infrastructure upgrades will also be implemented at satellite orebodies and the rail and port operations.

President BHP Billiton Iron Ore Ian Ashby said RGP4 would deliver large-scale benefits to the Company, its customers, employees and local communities.

"Our high quality asset base in the Pilbara and series of staged growth projects have helped ensure the continued delivery of outstanding returns to BHP Billiton shareholders," he said.

"The RGP4 project will further increase the efficiency of our integrated mine, port and rail operations and represents a key investment in our ongoing strategy to be more responsive to customer needs.

"The project will also have substantial flow-on benefits to Pilbara communities through the creation of employment and business opportunities, improved management of valuable water resources and significantly reduced dust emissions."

Mr Ashby said that a range of options to expand capacity beyond RGP4 are also being evaluated, subject to customer demand.

"We are committed to creating further value-adding options for the business and providing the next phase of growth opportunities beyond our recent expansion projects," he said.

By the end of CY2007 BHP Billiton will have increased the capacity of its Western Australian iron ore operations by 60Mtpa over the past four years. This growth will have been achieved through a series of sequential projects, delivered on time and within budget.

BHP Billiton’s partners in the Pilbara iron ore operations are: Itochu Minerals & Energy of Australia, Mitsui-Itochu Iron and Mitsui Iron Ore Corporation.

For further information please contact:

Australia
Samantha Evans, Media Relations
Tel: +61 3 9609 2898
email: Samantha.Evans@bhpbilliton.com

Jane Belcher, Investor Relations
Tel: +61 3 9609 3952  Mobile: +61 417 031 653
email: Jane.H.Belcher@bhpbilliton.com

United Kingdom
Mark Lidiard, Investor & Media Relations
Tel: +44 20 7802 4156  Mobile: +44 7769 934 942
email: Mark.Lidiard@bhpbilliton.com

Illtud Harri, Media Relations
Tel: +44 20 7802 4195  Mobile: +44 7920 237 246
email: Illtud.Harri@bhpbilliton.com

United States
Tracey Whitehead, Investor & Media Relations
Tel: US +1 713 599 6100 or UK +44 20 7802 4031
Mobile: +44 7917 648 093
email: Tracey.Whitehead@bhpbilliton.com

South Africa 
Alison Gilbert, Investor Relations
Tel: SA +27 11 376 2121 or UK +44 20 7802 4183
email: Alison.Gilbert@bhpbilliton.com


Notes

RGP4

Key elements of RGP4 include:

Mines

  • Construction of crushing and screening facilities at Mt Whaleback
  • Construction of a new car dumper at Mt Whaleback
  • Construction of a new ore processing plant at Jimblebar
  • Ore handling plant upgrades at Yandi

Port

  • Car dumper upgrade at Nelson Point
  • Construction of a second stockpile row in the East Yard at Finucane Island
  • Construction of new offices, warehouse and workshops at Finucane Island
  • General infrastructure upgrades to reduce dust emissions

Rail

  • Additional locomotives
  • Additional ore wagons
  • Additional mainline sidings

 RGP3

Construction of Rapid Growth Project 3 is currently underway. The project will increase capacity to 129Mtpa, from the current 109Mtpa, with initial production to commence by the end of calendar year 2007.

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