Iron ore - Statistics & Facts

Published by M. Garside, Sep 5, 2018
Iron is the most commonly used metal worldwide. It is primarily used by the construction, engineering, automotive, and machinery industry, often as the main ingredient in steel. Thus, the supply of iron ore is an important factor for the global economy. Based on the production of usable iron ore, Australia and Brazil are some of the largest producers in the world. In 2017, Australia produced an estimated 880 million metric tons of iron ore, while Brazil's production came to an estimated 440 million metric tons.

Accordingly, the world’s largest companies involved in iron ore mining are from these two countries. Vale S.A. from Brazil produced nearly 367 million metric tons in 2017, making it responsible for more than 80 percent of Brazil’s total iron ore production. Anglo-Australian mining companies BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto complete the world’s top three iron ore producers.

While Australia and Brazil are the top exporters of iron ore, China is by far the largest importer. As is the case for many other commodities as well, Chinese demand significantly defines the iron ore market. Nearly two-thirds of the global exports go to China – around 1.03 billion metric tons. In comparison to that, the United States consumed only about 36 million metric tons of iron ore in 2017, while total iron ore shipments stood at about 45 million metric tons.

Prices of iron ore showed a significant average increase over the last 13 years, before decreasing considerably in 2015. The price of iron ore reached a record high during this decade in 2011, when the average price was 168 U.S. dollars. In 2017, iron ore prices was about 72 U.S. dollars per dry metric ton unit. As of May 2018, the iron ore price sat at about 66 U.S. dollars per dry metric ton.

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