Andrew Forrest. Picture: REUTERS
Andrew Forrest. Picture: REUTERS

Melbourne — Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest has spent more than a decade feeding China’s steel-making boom — now he is leveraging his ties there to source medical supplies for the battle against the coronavirus Down Under.

Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation has pledged A$160m ($98m) to source equipment from China, including 33 ventilators, more than 1-million face masks and hundreds of thousands of gloves, nasal swabs and coveralls.

A first aircraft loaded with the products is scheduled to leave Shanghai on Wednesday bound for Perth and the logistics effort is being supported by Fortescue Metals , the iron ore supplier founded by Forrest in 2003, which wins more than 90% of revenue from China and shipped its first cargo in 2008.

“The trusted relationships, procurement expertise and logistics knowledge of the MFG [Fortescue] and Minderoo Foundation teams, have been fundamental in rapidly securing this vital equipment,” Forrest said.

Supplies will be distributed by health authorities in Forrest’s home state of Western Australia to hospitals, aged care providers and other front-line services, Minderoo said Wednesday in a statement.

Some medical professionals in Australia, just as in other nations, have raised concerns over a lack of sufficient personal protection equipment.