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Beyond the Surface: The History of BHP

On 13 August 1885, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was formed. To celebrate the anniversary of this momentous occasion Beyond the Surface looks back at the milestone events and people that have shaped our Company.

Formed from a merger between BHP and Billiton, we value our heritage and the strong foundations on which our company is built. From two small mining companies founded in the mid-1800s, we are now a world leader in the diversified resources industry.

Broken Hill Proprietary’s rich history began in a silver, lead and zinc mine in Broken Hill, Australia. Incorporated in 1885, BHP engaged in the discovery, development, production and marketing of iron ore, copper, oil and gas, diamonds, silver, lead, zinc and a range of other natural resources. BHP was also a market leader in value-added flat steel products.

Billiton’s roots trace back to 1851 and a tin mine on a little known island in Indonesia, Billiton (Belitung) island. Billiton became a global leader in the metals and mining sector and a major producer of aluminium and alumina, chrome and manganese ores and alloys, steaming coal, nickel and titanium minerals. Billiton also developed a substantial and growing copper portfolio.

To learn more about the history of BHP and Billiton, explore the interactive timeline below.

Explore a selection of publications from our archives

A Souvenir from Broken Hill (1912)

Published in 1912, A Souvenir from Broken Hill is a collection of images from the early days of BHP by E. A. Archbald. Download the publication (PDF 4.47 MB)

A Souvenir of Broken Hill (1935)

Published in 1935, A Souvenir of Broken Hill is a collection of etchings from BHP by J.C. Goodhart. Download the publication (PDF 31.3 MB)

The BHP Review: Jubilee Edition (1935)

In 1935, BHP published the jubilee edition of The BHP Review covering fifty years of industry and enterprise with a forward by Managing Director, Essington Lewis. Download the review (PDF 42 MB).

Australians in Company: The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in its One Hundredth Year (1985)

In 1985, BHP celebrated its centenary and published Australians in Company celebrating one hundred years of achievements in Australia and globally with a forward by Chairman James Balderstone. Download the publication (PDF 49.6 MB).

BHP Billiton Chronology (2014)

The history of BHP and Billiton before 2001. Download the timeline (PDF 1.6 MB)

Our History: Escondida in Chile (PDF 1.34 MB)

Our History: Iron Ore in the Pilbara (PDF 916 kb)

Our History: Petroleum in the Bass Strait (PDF 3 MB)

130 years incorporated: our stories (2015)

As we take a look back at our rich history and the milestones and events that have shaped our Company, we talk with some of our longest-serving employees about their experiences. 130 years incorporated: our stories (PDF 3.27 MB)

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