A look at Western Australia
Western Australia accounts for about 98 per cent of Australia's Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) of iron ore, which is around 28 billion tonnes.
Much of this is found in the State’s Hamersley Province, one of the world's major iron ore provinces. It hosts many deposits ranging in type from premium high-grade hematite ores to channel iron deposits.
The major iron ore producers in Western Australia include BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group (FMG). The sector also includes a number of smaller, mid-tier producers, such as Cliffs Natural Resources, Citic Pacific Mining and Hancock Prospecting. Several junior iron ore miners round out the sector.
In 2016-17, the volume of iron ore sales reached a record 790 million tonnes and was valued at $63.6 billion.
Iron is the world’s most commonly used metal, and iron ore is a key ingredient for steel making. To produce 1,000 kilograms of crude steel requires about 1,400 kilograms of iron ore (and around 800 kilograms of coal).
Iron can be alloyed with a variety of elements to produce stronger and harder products which are useful in the construction industry and in the manufacture of motor vehicles, ships, trucks, pipelines, trains and railway tracks.
Australia has the world’s largest estimated reserves of iron ore with 52 billion tonnes, or 30 per cent of the world’s estimated 170 billion tonnes.
Australia is followed by Russia, with 25 billion tonnes (13 per cent), Brazil with 23 billion tonnes (12 per cent) and China, with 21 billion tonnes (but of substantially lower grade) of estimated iron ore reserves.
Western Australia was the second largest producer of iron ore in 2016 with 769 million tonnes. In volume terms, only China produced more ore, but this material is often very low grade, and is largely accounted for domestically. This leaves Western Australia as the largest supplier to the global seaborne iron ore trade. Brazil, our closest competitor, produced approximately 391million tonnes in 2016.
More detailed information about the performance of WA’s iron ore sector, and other commodities, can be found in the Western Australian Mineral and Petroleum Statistics Digest or in the latest resource data files.