About iron ore in Australia
Australia is one of the world’s key iron ore producers. Of the nation’s natural resources, in Australia iron ore is the most plentiful.
Iron ores are rocks and minerals from which metallic iron can be economically extracted. Ninety-eight percent of mined iron is used to make steel.
The extraction of iron ore is generally performed through a blasting and removal process from large open pit mines, before it is crushed, screened and blended for export or local consumption. Once blended, iron ore is smelted and alloyed with metals (nickel, chromium, manganese, vanadium, molybdenum or titanium), which can then go on to produce different types of steel.
The majority of iron ore produced in Australia is direct shipping quality hematite ore. However, operations that extract magnetite and other types of ore requiring beneficiation are attracting increasing interest.
Rapid economic growth in developing Asia-Pacific economies has resulted in major increases in world steel production. The products, depending on their grade, are used in a wide range of applications including transportation, construction, machinery, appliances and electronics.
The Australian iron ore industry is export-orientated with around 85–90 per cent of production exported. In 2011, Australia continued to be the world’s largest exporter of iron ore, ahead of Brazil and India. In 2010, iron ore surpassed metallurgical coal as Australia’s most valuable export. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, two of the world’s top three exporters of seaborne iron ore have their key operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
Whilst the vast majority of Australia’s iron ore is produced in the Pilbara, a number of other locally significant iron ore mining operations also exist at Koolyanobbing, Cockatoo Island, Tallering Peak, Koolanooka, Jack Hills, and Koolan Island in Western Australia, the Middleback Ranges in South Australia, Frances Creek in the Northern Territory, and Savage River in Tasmania.
For more information about minerals in Australia, see Australian Mineral Commodities.
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