The 5 largest iron ore exporters in the world

Australia will remain at the top of the world’s largest iron ore exporters for the next three years, according to Australian government projections.

In fact, Australia more than doubled its closest competitor in this indicator, Brazil.

First of all, the top five positions in 2020 were as follows: Australia (867 million tons), Brazil (342 million), South Africa (66 million) Canada (55 million) and India (52 million).

In terms of value, Australian iron ore exports exceeded $ 78 billion and the corresponding exports from Brazil exceeded $ 25.78 billion, in both cases a record.

World trade in iron ore 

Iron ore

Total shipments of this product from Brazil grew 5% to reach almost 86 million tons in the June 2021 quarter.

This was 13% higher compared to the same period in 2020.

Brazil’s largest producer, Vale, had a total production of around 76 million tons in the same period, an 11% increase compared to the March 2021 quarter (and a 12% increase year-on-year).

According to the Australian government, this followed an improvement in seasonal weather conditions, as well as the continued recovery of operations since the collapse of the Brumandinho tailings dam in 2019.

Despite the progress, Vale has lowered its expectations for capacity recovery from 350Mt per year to 343Mt by the end of 2021. This follows forced closures at its Timbopeba complex in June, following concerns about the failure of another of its tailings dams.


Iron ore shipments from Australia continue to be subject to Covid-19 disruptions, connection and acceleration of brownfield replacement mines and the management of cultural heritage sites.

Maintenance on BHP‘s Nelson Point No.1 car tipper at its port facility in Port Hedland, Western Australia, will continue into the September quarter, impacting shipments, the Australian government anticipated.

In May 2021, the Chinese government announced a goal to diversify its current iron ore supply.

For now, Australia accounts for more than 60% of the country’s iron ore imports.

China’s new plan includes a goal of 45% self-sufficiency in steelmaking raw materials by 2025.

This plan includes a combination of: increased use of electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking (which uses more steel scrap and less iron ore as inputs); increased domestic exploration and production; and securing larger reserves abroad.


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