Iron ore - statistics & facts

Iron is the most commonly used metal worldwide. It is primarily used by the construction, engineering, automotive, and machinery industries, 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 the two largest iron producers in the world. In 2020, Australia produced an estimated 900 million metric tons of iron ore, while Brazil's production came to an estimated 400 million metric tons.

Iron ore mining companies

Accordingly, the world’s largest companies involved in iron ore mining are from these two leading producer countries. Brazilian mining company Vale S.A.'s iron ore production amounted to 300 million metric tons in 2020. Anglo-Australian mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP complete the world’s top three iron ore producers. Rio Tinto's iron ore production amounted to nearly 286,000 metric tons in 2020, while BHP's iron ore production was nearly 254,000 metric tons.

Iron ore traders

While Australia and Brazil are the top exporters of iron ore, China is by far the largest iron ore importer. As is the case for many other commodities as well, Chinese demand significantly defines the global iron ore market. Nearly two-thirds of global iron ore exports go to China – over one billion metric tons. In comparison to that, the United States consumed only about 33 million metric tons of iron ore in 2020, while total U.S. iron ore shipments stood at about 34 million metric tons.

Iron ore prices: on the rise again

Prices of iron ore showed an average increase between 2005 and 2011, before decreasing considerably in 2015. The price of iron ore reached a record high in 2011, when the average price was 168 U.S. dollars. In 2020, the iron ore price grew to 109 U.S. dollars per dry metric ton unit, which was the highest price since 2013. As of September 2021, the monthly iron ore price sat at about 125 U.S. dollars per dry metric ton. It reached a peak of 214.43 U.S. dollars per dry metric ton in June 2021.

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