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Vale and Japan: 60 years of partnership. Learn more about the highlights of our history

Vale and Japan: 60 years of partnership. Learn more about the highlights of our history

In 1953, a small batch of ore from Vale was shipped to Japan via the Port of Santos, in São Paulo state, so that potential buyers could test our product. By sending this load to the land of the rising sun, we began to write another page in our history. Two years later, we began regular sales of iron ore to Japan. The first shipment of nine thousand tons was the beginning of a successful relationship, which turns 60 this month.

Since then, more than 1.2 billion tons of iron ore have already been sold to the country. The partnership has intensified so much that it has gone well beyond the expansion of trade flows, translating into joint ventures, investment in ferrous minerals, coal, logistics, steel, fertilizers and base metals.

This 60 year relationship has changed the pattern of global navigation, has helped to lead Japan to the being the second economic power and transformed Brazil into a major exporter of raw materials in the world. Browse through the carousel and see the highlights of this story.

The world in 1950

In the 50's, Brazil was going through a phase of great change, the result of a process of modernization and growing industrialization. In turn, Japan began its post-war reconstruction and grew each year with the revival of big business and the development of its economy, particularly in the steel sector – the country needed raw material, especially iron ore.

Tubarão: a port that expanded Vale's boundaries

Because of the long distance between Brazil and Japan, shipping costs were high, because it was done in small 20,000 tons capacity ships. To meet the Japanese need and improve the logistics of ore exportation, in 1962 Vale signed a contract that provided the construction of a port to receive ships between 50 and 100 thousand tons. In August 1966, Vale inaugurated the Port of Tubarão, in Espírito Santo, with capacity to receive vessels up to 120,000 tons, our first large private harbour.

Porto Vale Japão

We needed a long-term contract to justify the investment in the construction of the port. At this time, the Japanese realized our strong desire to make and meet their need. Then, an enormous level of trust was born, strengthened due to the completion of the port”.

Eliezer Batista, former president of Vale.

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Carajás iron project
Vale in Japan
Cooperation agreement

Carajás was a case of love at first sight. The extracted iron ore was 66% to 67% pure, first-class and the deposits had reserves of 18 billion tons, an amount equal to any reserve in Australia.”

Takashi Imai, former manager
of Fuji Steel, in Japan.

The consolidation of the Carajás iron project, the largest iron ore open pit mine in the world, from the 80s, also had the support of Nipponese partners.

With the discovery of iron ore in Carajas in 1967, Vale announced in 1977 the priority of the project. With the help of Japanese and European funding, Vale initiated the construction process of the Carajás complex.


In Japan, our partnership is present in the capital Tokyo, where we have a sales office, and our plant in Matsusaka. In the city, Vale operates a refinery producing intermediate and refined nickel, a joint venture with Sumitomo Metal Mining. One of the largest nickel producers in the world with annual output of 60,000 tons, the Matsuzaka refinery is a reference in the base metals industry, due to its low operating costs and the efficiency of their production methods. In addition to supplying the domestic market, it has as main customers such as Taiwan, China and South Korea, where Vale also has operations.

Our relationship is not limited to Brazil - Japan. In Peru, Vale is partner of the Japanese company Mitsui in the operation of Bayóvar, for phosphate rock production. In New Caledonia, Vale has a project with the Sumic Company, and in Indonesia, with Sumitomo, for nickel production.

At the end of last year, Vale signed a three year operational cooperation agreement with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). Thus, Vale and JBIC will evaluate funding possibilities to support the iron ore business, coal, base metals and related infrastructure projects, in addition to expanding the partnership between our company and Japanese companies. The goal is to establish a flow of exchange of knowledge and technologies in project development and operation of mineral resources.

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Vale and Japan: 60 years of partnership. Learn more about the highlights of our history