Iron Ore

A look at Western Australia

BHP’s Mount Whaleback Mine is one of Western Australia’s main iron ore mines.
BHP’s Mount Whaleback Mine is one of Western Australia’s main iron ore mines.

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.

Iron ore remained the State's most valuable resource sector in 2015-16, valued at $48.4 billion. The volume of iron ore sales reached a record 757 million tonnes in 2015-16. Iron ore provided nearly $3.5 billion worth of royalties to the State government in 2015-16, representing nearly 75% of all royalties and associated payments.

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 and, as of 2015, Hancock Prospecting, through their Roy Hill deposit. A number of junior iron ore miners round out the sector.

Uses

Iron ores are rocks from which metallic iron can be economically extracted.  Iron is the world’s most commonly used metal, and iron ore is a key ingredient of steel. Small amounts of iron ore is used in other applications such as coal wash plants and cement manufacturing.

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.

Across the globe

Australia has the world’s largest estimated reserves of iron ore with54 billion tonnes, 28 per cent of the worlds estimated 190 billion tonnes. Australia is followed by Russia, with 25 billion tonnes (13 per cent), Brazil with 23 billion tonnes (12 per cent) and China, also with 23 billion tonnes (but of substantially lower grade) of estimated iron ore reserves.

Western Australia was the second largest producer of Iron ore in 2015 with 742 million tonnes, second only to China. With China’s production accounted for domestically, this leaves Western Australia as the leading iron ore exporter.

Iron Ore infographics
Western Australia’s mineral and petroleum exports