BHP Billiton says it will run a tighter iron ore business as demand begins to slow.
But the company has not made cuts to its iron ore workforce, instead maintaining a staff hiring freeze.
The mining giant's iron ore president Jimmy Wilson said the company was looking to improve efficiencies, effectiveness and productivity.
"There's been unprecedented demand, and that demand has resulted in supply coming on, and that's been appropriate," Mr Wilson told a business function in Perth.
"But we are going into a phase now where there's less demand.
"Less demand as a percentage, not less demand as a magnitude, because there's still a lot of demand in the iron ore sector."
He said BHP, the world's third biggest iron ore producer after Vale and Rio Tinto, was looking to increase volumes using its existing equipment.
Cooling markets would provide an opportunity to negotiate better deals to boost productivity, Mr Wilson said.
BHP recently sold a 15 per cent stake in a West Australian iron ore mine to Japanese conglomerates for $US1.5 billion.
Meanwhile, Mr Wilson and a senior manager at energy producer Santos told the function that Australia's shale gas resources could be pursued for domestic consumption.
"I think there is an opportunity that's been missed there," Mr Wilson said.
Santos vice president in WA and the Northern Territory John Anderson said there was a "cracking opportunity" to exploit shale gas and tight gas reserves in Western Australia.
"We're in the early days and I think it's exciting," he said.
Santos estimates liquified natural gas (LNG) demand will double by 2030.
"The most challenging issue for us in this industry and Australia is that we capture that next wave of projects that are still to be sanctioned," he said.
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