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Iron Ore

Western Australia accounted for 29 per cent of the world’s iron ore reserves in 2018. From Port Hedland and throughout the Pilbara, Western Australia is also the largest iron ore supplier in the world, accounting for 39 per cent of global supply in 2018.

About 98 per cent of world iron ore production is used to make iron in the form of steel. Pure iron is quite soft. Adding carbon to iron produces steel, which is significantly harder and extremely versatile.

Western Australia has an estimated 48 billion tonnes of economic demonstrated iron ore resources in 2018-19, which could sustain current production levels for 53 years. The major iron ore producers in Western Australia include BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group, CITIC Pacific Mining and Hancock Prospecting.

Iron Ore Mining In WA

In June 2019, Western Australia had $16.6 billion of major iron ore projects under construction or committed and $41.6 billion under consideration.

Western Australia’s iron ore sales more than doubled over the past decade, from 317 million tonnes in 2008-09 to 794 million tonnes in 2018-19. China is the State’s largest iron ore export market, accounting for $62.4 billion (82 per cent) of exports in 2018-19. Japan and South Korea were the next two largest exports markets, accounting for $5.7 billion (7.5 per cent) and $4.5 billion (6 per cent) respectively.

Fortescue Metals Group’s (FMG) Eliwana, Rio Tinto’s Koodaideri, and BHP’s South Flank iron ore projects are set to add 50 million tonnes, 43  million tonnes, and 80 million tonnes respectively to WA’s annual iron ore exports.

Iron is the world’s most commonly used metal, with iron ore a key ingredient in steel making. To produce 1,000 kilograms of crude steel, about 1,400 kilograms of iron ore is required. Iron can be alloyed with a variety of elements to produce stronger and harder products used by the construction and manufacturing industries. This includes buildings, motor vehicles, ships, trucks, pipelines, trains and railway tracks.

Employing more than 45,260 employees (full-time equivalent) in 2018-19, the iron ore sector is the State’s largest mineral employer. With a multitude of iron ore mines in WA, the sector is a large part of the Western Australian economy, accounting for 17 per cent of gross state product and 57 per cent of mining industry value added. The value of iron ore accounted for 47 per cent of Western Australia’s merchandise exports and 54 per cent of Western Australia’s minerals and petroleum sales. Iron ore accounted for 75 per cent of Western Australia’s royalties in 2018-19.

*Sources: DMIRS, JTSI.