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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 Herodotus referred 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 can order iron ore via a mobile app.

Electric railway iron ore end product

Rio Tinto Iron Ore

We are one of the world’s leading producers of iron ore. Our iron ore operations in the Pilbara comprise a world-class, integrated network of 17 iron ore mines, 4 independent port terminals, a 1,900-kilometre rail network and related infrastructure.

We produce these mainstream iron ore products in Western Australia, including Pilbara Blend, the world's most recognised brand of iron ore.

Pilbara Blend – fines and lump

These high-grade products make up approximately 65% of our portfolio. Pilbara Blend™ fines are used in steelworks as sinter plant feed and are the preferred iron ore in China.

Pilbara Blend™ lump contributes to lower greenhouse gas emissions, as it is used directly without additional carbon intensive pre-processing.

Yandicoogina – fines

These products have low impurities and produce a high-iron sinter. They are used by customers in East Asia and Southern China, as the base load in their sinter blend.

Robe Valley – fines and lump

These products have a lower iron content and a low phosphorus content and are valued by specialty steel producers with more niche applications.

SP10 – fines and lump

These are derived from the same orebodies as Pilbara Blend™ but are lower grade products that allow our customers to minimise their operating costs.

17

Integrated mines in Western Australia

4

Port terminals

3

Solar salt operations

~1,900km

Rail network

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One of the world's largest robots

AutoHaul™, our first driverless heavy-haul, long-distance trains, deliver iron ore from our inland mines in the Pilbara, Western Australia, to our ports at Dampier and Cape Lambert.

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 improves cycle times by using information about the train and rail network topography to calculate and deliver a safe, consistent driving strategy.

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 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.

Our mine plants 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.

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 6 days to 24 hours. This trade built on our first fully-digitised trade finance transaction completed in 2018.

And in 2022, we achieved first ore at Gudai-Darri, our most technologically advanced mine. In addition to technology already in use across our operations – such as autonomous trucks, trains, plants and drills – Gudai-Darri’s design is also far more automated and digitised, including advanced data analytics. This level of automation allows us to operate equipment and vehicles remotely from Perth, improving safety and efficiency.

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

Gudai-Darri site

Introducing Gudai-Darri

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

More

Our teams are also using a “digital asset” – a digital replica of the site that combines data from actual processing plants with historical design information to improve the way the plants are run. By using these 3D models, teams can understand the site’s layout and specifications long before they need to enter those areas and perform work.

We’re also using a patented, world-first reclaimer bucketwheel design, which allows our teams to change out the entire bucketwheel for maintenance, improving efficiency and safety. Our primary crusher uses a similar ‘removable’ design, allowing our teams to service it from the top – rather than performing higher-risk work below the crusher – and switch out consumables faster, reducing service and maintenance time. Gudai-Darri 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 5 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 2023, we extended a key partnership with China’s largest steel producer, China Baowu Steel Group, to accelerate efforts to decarbonise the steel value chain and reduce Scope 3 emissions. China Baowu is also a joint venture partner in the Western Range and Simandou project.

Our Iron Ore operations

Pilbara

Iron Ore Western Australia

In the Pilbara region of Western Australia, we own an integrated portfolio of world-class iron ore assets
Snow covered pit at IOC Operations in Labrador City, NL Canada

Iron Ore Company of Canada

Iron Ore Company of Canada operations are integrated across Labrador City, Newfoundland and Labrador and Sept-Iles, Quebec

Contact Iron Ore

Iron ore end product

Rio Tinto Iron Ore 

Sales & Marketing

E: rtioasgsales@riotinto.com