Iron Ore in-depth

Iron Ore in-depth

Our Iron Ore product group is primarily focused on our world-class iron ore operations in Western Australia.

Products and uses

We’re the second largest supplier to the world’s iron ore trade. Iron is a key ingredient in the production of steel – an essential part of modern living from buildings to cars, machinery to appliances. Vital to the modern world, it is also crucial to the growth of developing regions like Asia and India.

We produce a range of lump and fines products from our West Australian operations for use in integrated steelworks as sinter plant feed or direct blast furnace feed. Most of the iron ore we sell is smelted by our customers in blast furnaces. Fuel, iron ore and flux are continuously supplied through the top of the furnace, so that chemical reactions take place throughout the furnace as material moves downwards. The end products are usually molten metal and slag phases tapped from the bottom, and gasses exiting from the top of the furnace.

Our HIsmelt® process (Rio Tinto: 60 per cent) is a cleaner, low-cost and more efficient alternative to the traditional blast furnace. The world’s first commercial direct smelting process, it produces premium quality pig iron directly from iron ore, with no slag. The process allows iron ore fines with significant impurities to be used, and cheaper, non-coking coal instead of coke. HIsmelt licences are available to steel producers throughout the world.

Our operations

Our integrated iron ore operations – including mines, rail, ports and related infrastructure – are designed to respond rapidly to changes in demand.

We find and extract iron ore from beneath the surface rock; crush and sort the ore; then ship direct to customers or to smelters where they extract iron metal from the ore.

We’ve expanded our operations in Western Australia and introduced next generation technologies to deliver greater efficiency, lower production costs and improved health, safety and environmental performance.

We also operate an ocean freight business, Rio Tinto Marine, which services our global operations.