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Iron Ore

Iron ore is the primary raw material used to make steel. Steel is strong, long-lasting and cost-efficient – making it perfect for everything from washing machines to cars, bridges and skyscrapers.

According to the World Steel Association, steel is the most commonly used alloy in the world. Global steel consumption is forecast to grow by 1%-2% per annum over the next decade.

The first known steel application dates as far back as 11th century BC, in Cyprus where archaeologists found material suggesting that steel knives were already being made. Four centuries later, the Greek historian Herodutus made reference to steel-inlaid bowls and, in the 3rd century BC, South Indian craftsmen were known to produce steel by smelting wrought iron with charcoal, using clay containers.

The Bessemer process to manufacture steel was developed by British inventor Henry Bessemer in the mid-1850s. In the middle of the twentieth century, the Bessemer process was refined into the Basic Oxygen Process that is still used today in blast furnaces.

Today, new technologies have great potential to improve how we engage with our markets. For example, our China portside customers will be able to order iron ore via a mobile app.

Steel bridge

Rio Tinto Iron Ore

Today, we produce five iron ore products in Western Australia – including the Pilbara Blend, the world’s most recognised brand of iron ore – used in steelworks as sinter plant feed or direct blast furnace feed.

Pilbara Blend – fines and lump

Our Pilbara Blend products are the world’s most recognised brand of iron ore, and are known for their high-grade quality and consistency. Our Pilbara Blend products make up approximately 70% of our iron ore product portfolio. It is also the largest and most liquid iron in the market today, known as the “US dollar of iron ore”. Our higher grade ores also contribute to reducing GHG and other air emissions, which, along with its liquidity and consistent quality, makes our products the preferred iron ore for the steel industry in China.

Yandicoogina – fines

Our Yandicoogina products have a 58% iron content and low impurities, and produce a high-iron sinter. It is used by customers in East Asia and Southern China as the base load in their sinter blend. 

Robe Valley - fines and lump 

Our Robe Valley products have a lower iron content and a low phosphorus content, which is valued by specialty steel producers with more niche applications.

Our iron ore operations in the Pilbara comprise a world-class, integrated network of 16 iron ore mines, four independent port terminals, a 1,700-kilometre rail network and related infrastructure. Insights from data help us to explore and extract our iron ore efficiently. 

Our Operations Centre in Perth uses next-generation technologies, including artificial intelligence, automation and robotics, to run operations in real-time and respond quickly to changes. Our AutoHaul™ train system is the first fully autonomous, long-distance, heavy-haul rail network – one of the world’s largest robots.


Integrated Mines in Western Australia




Port Terminals


Solar Salt Ops



2020 figures.

Pilbara AutoHaul train

One Of The World's Largest Robots

AutoHaul™, our first driverless heavy-haul, long-distance trains, successfully delivered iron ore from our inland mines in the Pilbara, Western Australia, to our port at Cape Lambert. 


Since its first loaded run in July, we have safely and steadily increased the number of autonomous trips across our iron ore operations in Western Australia. AutoHaul™ have travelled more than 1.6 million kilometres in 2018.

AutoHaul™ improves safety by reducing risk at level crossings and through its automated responses to speed restrictions and alarms. It also eliminates the need to transport drivers to and from trains mid-journey saving almost 1.5 million kilometres of road travel each year. It also improves cycle times by using information about the train and rail network topography to calculate and deliver a safe, consistent driving strategy.

In 2018, the Rio Tinto board approved $2.6 billion in funding for Gudai-Darri (Koodaideri), set to be our most technologically advanced mine, as well a high-quality, long-life, low-cost and expandable asset. For the very first time, we will leverage technology already in use across our business, such as autonomous trucks, trains and drills, and implement systems that connect all components of the mining value chain.

And in 2019, we completed the first fully integrated paperless trade in iron ore. The whole process integrated intelligent contracts, electronic documents and a trade finance blockchain resulting in a faster, more streamlined transaction. Total transaction time was reduced from six days to 24 hours. This trade built on our first fully-digitised trade finance transaction completed in 2018.

Each of these elements works together to deliver high-quality iron ore to our customers reliably and safely.

Koodaideri site

Introducing Gudai-Darri (Koodaideri)

Our First Intelligent Mine
Our $2.6 billion Gudai-Darri (Koodaideri) iron ore project is set to be our most technologically advanced mine. In addition to technology already in use across Rio Tinto, such as autonomous trucks, trains and drills, Gudai-Darri has more than 70 design innovations in scope.


We will use fully integrated mine operation and simulation systems, such as digital twin technology. Pioneered by NASA, digital twins are virtual models of a physical environment – like a space station – that let you quickly test different situations. These twins combine data from actual processing plants with historical information – about things like design and production. This gives our people in the field and at our remote operations centre the ability to access the same information and make decisions, based on real-time data, in seconds instead of hours or days. We can also safely test ways to increase production without breaking parts or disrupting operations.

Gudai-Darri (Koodaideri) will set a benchmark for our industry in terms of automation and the use of data – making mining safer and more productive.

The Iron Ore Company of Canada

Our Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) is a leading North American producer and exporter of premium iron ore pellets and high-grade concentrate. Our operations include a mine with five operational pits, a concentrator and a pelletising plant located near Labrador City, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, in the region known as the “Labrador Trough”, an established basin with significant deposits for the supply of high-grade iron ore products. We also operate a wholly-owned railway that links our operations to our port facilities in Sept-Îles, Quebec. 

Our IOC business targets niche, high-value segments of the seaborne iron ore market; our high-grade, low-impurity IOC products allow steelmakers to operate more productively and produce higher quality steels while meeting increasingly stringent environmental standards.

A More Sustainable Future

In 2019, we partnered with China’s largest steel producer, China Baowu Steel Group, and Tsinghua University, one of China’s most prestigious and influential universities, to work on a joint action plan – supported by the China Iron Steel Association to explore ways to improve environmental performance across the steel value chain. We will combine our strengths on everything from research and development, technologies, processes, equipment, logistics, industry coordination and policy advisory capacities to bring together solutions to help address the steel industry’s carbon footprint.

In 2021 we announced a partnership with Paul Wurth and SHS-Stahl-Holding-Saar (SHS) to explore the viability of transforming iron ore pellets into low-carbon hot briquetted iron, a low-carbon steel feedstock, using green hydrogen generated from hydro-electricity in Canada. The feasibility study is expected to be complete in late 2021, with an investment decision on a hydrogen based direct reduction plant at industrial scale expected to follow.

Mine to Market Focus

Our integrated operations, which include port facilities, ensure we can supply the right quality product to our customers, when they need it. We blend our products at our own ports, which allows us to produce a reliable and consistent product. And because we have dedicated shipping operations, we are able to better control the delivery of product to our customers.

Our mine plans are built to create value from our ore bodies and we use market signals to flex our production mix. We use real-time data analytics and artificial intelligence to respond quickly to market demand, and to help us anticipate future market conditions.

Contact Iron Ore

Steel used in bridge construction
Steel used in bridge construction

Rio Tinto Iron Ore

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