Rio Tinto has exported its three billionth tonne of iron ore from Australia, highlighting the growth of the Pilbara region since its first shipment in 1966, the company said.

The three billionth tonne has been loaded on to the Capesize vessel Pacific Ruby at Rio Tinto’s recently expanded Cape Lambert port.

The 240,000t cargo contained iron ore from the Mesa J and Yandicoogina mines, and is being delivered to South Korean steel maker POSCO.

Rio Tinto manages three terminals and 11 mines at two ports in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Rio Tinto acting CEO and managing director, Pilbara mine operations, Greg Lilleyman said the company took just six years to ship its third billionth tonne.

“It is fitting that such a milestone should comprise ore drawn from the furthest reaches of our Pilbara operations, as it highlights the sheer scale and complexity of Rio Tinto’s integrated production network,” Lilleyman said.

The two products were sourced from mines more than 300km apart, separately transported on two rail lines to meet at a new four-berth port for shipping, the company said.