Iron Ore mining is dominated by Australia, Brazil and India. I have included a lit of the top 10 exporters of non pellatised raw iron ore for 2011 below (in tonnes):
- Australia 435,000,000
- Brazil 241,500,000
- India 76,800,000
- S. Africa 50,400,000
- Ukraine 22,100,000
- Iran 15,900,000
- Canada 15,300,000
- Russia 14,700,000
- Indonesia 12,100,000
- Mauritania 10,900,000
This gives a fair indication of the level of iron ore mining taking place in each of these countries.
Origins of UK Iron Ore Imports
Most of the iron ore imported into the UK comes from Brazil (just over 6 MT in 2011) but smaller amounts come from Russia (over 1 MT), South Africa (about 800 KT), Canada (about 500 KT) and Norway (nealry 300 KT).
Major Players in the Iron Ore Supply
There are a number of very large companies involved in the supply of iron ore globally and I will have a look at some of them here, starting with the larges producer in the world, Vale of Brazil.
Based In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Vale is the largest iron ore miner in the world by capacity (it is thought to have a capacity of 417.1 MT a year. Aside from Iron Ore mining they are involved in many different businesses, including iron ore pelletising, steel making, nickel mining, phosphate and potash mining, fertilzer manufacture and palm oil production.
As far as the iron ore business goes, the vast majority of operations are in their home territory of Brazil, with the following mines and plants:
- Carajas, Paraupebas – The largest open pit iron ore mine in the world
- Minas Gerais – Mine
- Corumba – Two iron ore mines and a manganese ore mine
- Cajati, Sao Paulo – another mine
- Sao Luis, Maranhao – iron ore pelletising plant
- Vitoria, Espirito Santo – another iron ore pelletising plant.
They have also developed a pelletising plant in Sahar, Oman and a new iron ore mine is being developed in Simandou, Guinea.
Before 2007, Vale was probably better known as CVRD (Companhia Vale do Rio Doce) and has become the behemoth it is now through joint ventures, diversification and acquisitions, having acquired Canada’s Inco, a nickel mining company in 2006.
This year Vale won the dubious honour of being voted the corporation with the most “contempt for the environment and human rights”. Looking into this further, though, it seems this is mainly based on their involvement in the Belo Monte dam in the Amazon of which they are only a very minor shareholder so it seems to be a bit unfair.
Based: UK & Australia
Revenue: USD 60.5B
Rio Tinto is the second largest iron ore producer in the world after Vale, by capacity with nearly 274 MT per year. It is headquartered jointly in the UK and Australia, and is listed on the stock exchange of both countries. Aside from steel it also has operations in Aluminium, Copper, Diamonds, Coal, Uranium and Salt and as well as mining, does have some smelting capacity. Most of the mines are in Australia and North America so here is a list of those iron ore operations:
- West Angeles
- Brockman No 2 and 4
- Eastern Range
- Hope Downs
- Tom Price
- Mesa A
- Mesa J
All the above are based in Pilbara, Western Australia and Rio Tinto also owns several port facilities on the Western coast of Australia, where it ships the iron ore to Asian and Europe
Rio Tinto owns a controlling stake in the Iron Ore Company of Australia, and mines iron ore in Labrador, and Labrador Bay, Newfoundland. The company then processes the iron ore to produce pellets and concentrate and from here it is transported to Sept Illes in Quebec where it is shipped to North American, European and Asian steel makers.
As well as developing its Western Australia operations, Rio Tinto is also looking into projects in Simandou, Guinea and in Orissa, India.
Based: UK & Australia
Revenue: USD: 71.7B
BHP Billiton is another Anglo Australian mining company that was born when the Australian Broken Hill Propriety Group merged with the UK based Billiton and is now the largest in the world by revenue. It is registered on the UK, Australian, South African and New York stock exchanges and It has an iron ore mining capacity of 188.5 MT. BHP Billiton is also involved in other industries, including Aluminium, Copper, Coal, Manganese, Nickel, Silver, Titanium, Uranium, Oil and Gas.
BHP Billiton has iron ore mining operations in Brazil and Australia.
- Mt Whaleback, Wheelarra, Orebodies 18, 23, 24, 25, 29, 30, 35 Outside Newman Town
- Yandi & Area C 100Km NW of Newman
- Yarrie 200 Km East of Port Hedland
All Australian mines are Western Australia.
BHP Billiton has a joint venture with Vale in Samarco, where it has mines, pelleting plants and concentrators.
Revenue: USD 94B
Arcelor Mittal is the larges steel making company in the world and it is less known as a mining group but it is the fourth largest iron ore miner by capacity, with about 78.9 MT a year. It also mines a small amount of coal. The coal and ore mined by Arcelor Mittal is mainly to make the group self sufficient and not reliant on other mining companies.
The group was formed in its current incarnation when Mittal Steel took over Arcelor in 2006 and is now traded in the Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Luxembourg, Spanish and New York exchanges.
The group seems to have holdings in iron ore mines in quite a diverse number of countries, they include the following:
- Algeria – Ouenza and Boukhadra mines in Tebessa
- Bosnia – Omarska mine in Prijedor
- Brazil – Serra Azul and Andrade mine in Minas Gerais
- Canada – Mt. Wright and Fire Lake mines in Quebec
- Kazakhstan – Lisakovski, Kentube, Atasu and Atansore mines
- Liberia – Tokadeh in Yekepa
- Mexico – Pena Colorada mine in Colima, Volcan mine in sonora and Las Truchas in Michoacan.
- USA – Minorca and Hibbing Taconite mines in partnership with Cliffs Natural Resources
- Ukraine – Artyom and Kryuih Rih mines
The are looking to boost capacity in Brazil, Canada and Liberia (which is a new mine) and are looking into the feasability of a mining operation in Mauritania.
Revenue: USD: 3.2B
Fortescue is based entirely in Pilbara, Western Australia and is growing very quickly. Already it is one of the largest iron ore producers in the world but plans to grow three-fold over the next few years.
In Pilbara, the group currently has the following mines:
Solomon Hub – This is not yet in operation but nearly 2.9B tonnes of ore deposits have already been found.
Chichester Hub, Cloudbreak – This was the first mine and produces 110KT of ore a day. The ore is held horizontally instead of the usual vertical depostits which makes it fairly unusual
Chichester Hub, Christmas Creek – This second mine site produces about 2MT of iron ore a quarter.
Once mined, the ore is transported by rail to Port Hedland before being shipped abroad (mainly to destinations in Asia).
Along side these two hubs, it is also intended to develop the Western Hub which is also located in Pilbara and is thought to contain 625MT of iron ore.
Although Evraz is Russian based, it has a European HQ in London and is publically listed on the London Stock Exchange. As well as iron ore mining operations, Evraz also mines coking coal and has a large steel making business. Like Arcelor Mittal, the motivation for mining iron ore seems to be predominantly to be self sufficient with regards to their steel making activities. Most of their iron ore mines are located in Russia, with a few in Ukraine. The details of their mining activities are as follows:
Evraz Kgok – Based around Sverdlovsk in Russia with an annual ouput of 50MT this operation mines Vanadium bearing iron ore, which has a number of beneficial uses for steel from the Gusevogorskoye iron ore deposit.
Evraz Vgok – Based near Nizhny Tagil in Russia, this is an operaton of 3 different mines with ore processing facilities. The mines develop the Vysokogorskoye, Lebyazhinskoy and Yestyuniskoye deposits and produces 4.2MT a year.
Evrazruda – Based in the Kemerovo region of Russia it has four mines and two enrichnment plants in this region (Tashtaglosky, Kazsky, Sheregeshsky and Gurevsky). In the republic of Khakassia there are the Abakansky and Teisky mines while south of Krasnoyarsk is the Irbinsky mine. These mines produce 4.1MT annually.
Evraz Sukha Balka – Based in the Ukraine, it includes the Yubileynaya and the Imeni Frunze mines and produces 3.1MT a year.
Overall by capacity, Evraz is the 6th largest producer of iron ore and has a capacity of about 50MT a year.
Revenue: US$ 7.2B
Metalloinvest is another iron ore producer based in Russia and all of it’s iron ore mines are within Western Russia. In addition to mining iron ore, the group also produces iron ore pellets and 100% of the HBI (Hot Bricketted Iron) produced in Russia. They also have a relatively small steel making arm.
Their iron ore production sites are:
Lebedinsky GOK, Russia – This facility produces 19.8MT or iron ore concentrate and 8.8MT of iron ore pellets a year. There is also HBI produced here.
Mikhailovsky GOK, Russia – This facility produces 15.3MT of concentrate and 9.7M of iron ore pellets a year. It has the largest reserves of iron ore in the whole of Russia.
Metalloinvest are the 7th largest producer by capacity and the second largest producer in Russia after Evraz. Although they only have two iron ore producing facilities located in a small(ish) area of Russia, those mines and processing plants turn over a large amount of ore per annum.
Anben group is made up of the Anshan steel corporation and Benxi iron and steel. It is the second largest steel producer in China and also the largest iron ore producer with a capacity of 44.7 MT a year.
Most of the mines are located in China:
- Dagushan, Dang’ Anshan, Hujiamiaozi, Qidashan and Yanqianshan are all based in the Anshan area in China. There are also iron ore pellet plants associated with these mines.
- Gangchangling Complex is an iron ore mine and pelletiser plant. It is based near Liaoyang, China.
AnBen also has iron ore mines in Australia as a part of joint ventures:
- In a joint venture with Gindalbie there are the Karara Hematite and Magnetite mines near Geraldton.
- In a joint venture with Cliffs Natural Resources there is the Koolyanobbing iron ore project near Southern Cross in Australia.