Projects of unimaginable scale
Australia’s Pilbara region is the largest iron-ore producing region in the world. Mitsui has five iron ore joint ventures there. Our partners are Rio Tinto and BHP. As GM of the Australia Business Department, my responsibilities are pretty broad: I manage the two separate teams we have for Rio Tinto and BHP business here in Tokyo and I deal with our Australian joint ventures and subsidiaries, as well as with Mitsui top management.
To develop a mine is a project of an almost unimaginable scale. It involves many people with different backgrounds and different expertise working together. It’s crucial for everyone to come together as a team and to be pointing in the same direction. That’s why I take communication seriously. I want everyone—at Mitsui, in our teams and in our Australian subsidiaries—to feel that what they’re doing is meaningful so that they can give 120% to their work.
Collaborating with lots of people is not the only challenge. Resource projects involve huge amounts of time and capital. For example, the development of the Pilbara region actually started 50 years ago—before I was even born! Mitsui was there right from the very beginning. We participated in the development of the first mines and built the railways, ports and towns back when the Pilbara in Western Australia was just a wilderness.
We’ve stuck with the business for half a century. At the start, the business bled red ink. If we’d applied our modern-day investment criteria, we would just have walked away. It’s because my predecessors here at Mitsui toughed it out that we got to where we are today. I’m standing on the foundation that they built. Perhaps that’s the nature of the resource business. Mines will always deplete, so doing nothing is not an option: you’ve got to keep pushing ahead with long-term projects that you can then pass on to your successors. I want to improve the projects I inherited before handing them on.