true giants of mining: world's top 10 iron ore mines
The price of iron ore on Thursday turned positive amid new signs thatChina, which dominates theseaborne trade in the steelmaking raw material, will be pushing ahead with stimulus programs to boost its slowing economy.
The benchmark 62% Fe import price including freight and insurance at the Chinese port of Tianjin added1.4% to $56.80 a tonne. Iron ore reached a 10-week high last week according to data provided by The SteelIndex and istrading up some 28% from record lows for the spot market hit early July 8.
While todays price is nowhere near record highs above $190 a tonne reached in February 2011, it is worth noting that iron ore traded for less than $20 a tonne for 40 years before Chinas rapid expansion transformed the industry at the turn of the century and madeiron the second most traded commodity after crude oil.
Due to rapid global urbanization the world steel consumption nearly doubledoverthe past decade, from about 800 million tonnes in 2000 to more than 1,500 million tonnes in 2014. China is the leader in both steel production (50% of world total) and iron ore mining (47% of global output in terms of tonnage). China is also the biggest iron ore importer and, as of April 2015, consumed more than 80% of the 1.3 billion tonne seaborne trade.
An oversupply of iron ore combined with China adding more steel-making capacity than it needed, resulted in a slumpin the iron ore spot prices overthe past two years, includinga staggering 47% decline in 2014 and a further 18% retreat so far this year.
Because of the massive scale of closures of iron ore mines, current supply growth is lower than expected. This, combined with recently announced infrastructure spending boost in China, are believed to be the main reasons behind arevived iron ore market.
The following analysis covers those iron ore production centers that have two main distinctive features: disclosure of production numbers by the owner/operator and separate production units running as a single operation. Thereforethe iron ore operations ranked here be individual mines or a complex of clustered mines.
The biggest iron ore mining center is the Rio Tintos Hamersley Mines that incorporates nine mines in Western Australia. These assets are run as a single operation managed and maintained by Pilbara Iron, and produced a total of 163Mt iron ore. Being the biggest iron ore production center in the world, Hamersley is also the lowest-cost operation.
Vales Carajas Mine Complex is the second biggest iron ore production center, which consists of three open-pit mines, namely Carajas N4E, N4W and N5, and operated as the Serra Norte Mining Center. In 2014, Carajas mines produced 120Mt of iron ore. With an average iron ore grade in reserves of about 66%, this is believed to be the highest grade iron ore center in the world.
Fortescues Chichester Hub consists of Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak iron ore mines. In 2014, it is believed that Chichester Hub has achieved its annual production capacity of 90Mt of iron ore. For only five years since its commissioning in 2008, Chichester Hub became one of the biggest iron ore producing centers globally.
Another BHP Billitons operation, the massive Mt Whaleback mine, is the biggest single-pit open-cut iron ore mine in the world in terms of pit size. This mine is more than 5 kilometres long and nearly 1.5 kilometres wide. 77Mt of iron ore mined here in 2014.
Fortescues Solomon Hub that comprises Firetail and Kings producing mines. Together, Firetail and Kings have an annual production capacity in excess of 70Mt. In 2014, Solomon Hub is believed to produce about 58Mt of iron ore.
Eighth biggest operation is Hope Downs mine in Western Australia, operated by the Hope Downs Joint Venture, a 50 / 50 joint venture between Hope Downs Iron Ore, led by Australias richest person and iron ore tycoon Gina Rinehart, and Rio Tinto Iron Ore. In 2014, iron ore output at this mine achieved 43Mt.
Anglo Americans flagships Sishen iron ore mine in South Africa is tenth in terms of iron ore output with 36Mt of iron ore mined out in 2014. Being some 14km long, Sishen mine is one of the largest open pit mines in the world.
Seven out of the top 10 biggest iron production centers are located in Western Australia, and with whopping 697Mt of iron ore produced in 2014. This Australian state is believed to be the biggest jurisdiction in the world in terms of iron ore output.
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