SYDNEY, April 28 (Reuters) - Australia's Town of Port Hedland on Friday approved plans by BHP Billiton to ship an additional 5 million tonnes of iron ore annually through the port, the first stage of a plan to lift shipments to 290 million tonnes by 2019.
The increase, approved in a vote by the Port Hedland Council, is a quarter of the size BHP originally requested before being rejected in September by the town over concerns of dust pollution caused by iron ore stockpiles.
BHP is next expected to seek approval to ship 275 million tonnes of iron ore annually, before boosting shipments to 290 million tonnes by mid-2019.
BHP Billiton derives more than half its profits from selling iron ore, mostly to steel mills in China.
Since the previous application to increase exports by 20 million tonnes was opposed in September 2016, there have been discussions with key stakeholders and BHP to determine the impacts of dust on health, Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco said in a statement on Friday.
BHP was not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)