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  • Iron Ore
  • Mines Producing Iron Ore

Iron ore is subsequently the foundation of the Australian mining industry and one of the country's main export industries. Iron ore is mostly mined by a method known as open cut mining. This occurs when the covering overburden of earth is removed exposing the iron ore deposits, similar to that of a large quarry you see in various places where authorities extract road metal for road making. In this way it differs from other mining methods that extract ore bodies deep below the surface with a system of underground shafts and tunnels.

An Industry of Massive Proportions

Iron ore mining is a massive industry particularly in the Pilbara region of Western Australia where the ore is taken from the face of the mine to a plant where it is crushed and screened by trucks that carry up to 300 tonnes in the one load. It is then transported by trains containing three locomotive engines pulling more than 250 wagons that stretch out over a distance of more than two kilometres, to a port site on the coast. These trains pull a weight of over 25,000 tonnes of ore on their journey from the mine site to the port.

Australia is the largest exporter of iron ore in the world having exported 362 million tonnes in 2009 at a value of $30 billion. Western Australia contributed 97 percent of the iron ore produced that year.

The Major Australian Iron Ore Mining Companies

The two biggest companies that mine iron ore in Australia are Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton:

Rio Tinto operate the giant Hamersley Iron Ore project at Mount Tom Price in Western Australia, as well as the Western Turner Syncline mine, the HiYandi, Marandoo, Eastern Range, Channa, Paraburdoo and Brockman 4 mines. It is also in partnership with Hancock Prospecting in the operation of the Hope Downs mine and with Robe River, in the operation of the Robe River, Marra Marra and West Angelas mines.

BHP Billiton are managers of the large Mount Newman joint venture that includes Mount Whaleback, Yandi, Mount Goldsworthy (Yarrie) and Mining Area C. It also fully owns Jumblebar. To give you an idea of the size of these mines, Mount Whaleback alone is over five kilometres long and two kilometres wide. It will continue to operate to a depth of 500 metres.

Why Iron Ore is so Valuable

The value of iron ore to the economy of the world comes from its end product, steel. Steel having 20 percent more uses than all other metals put together. This is because of it being so strong, versatile and durable when compared to other metals. Structural steel used in manufacturing, building projects and engineering uses up to 90 percent of iron produced each year. Sixty percent of it going towards steel used in construction and transportation, 20 percent in the manufacturing of machinery and the remainder in containers and steel cans etc. Particularly by the gas and oil industries.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is increasing used in the community for a variety of purposes. This derivative of basic steel is made by including 10.5 percent of Chromium during production as well as varying amounts of molybdenum, nitrogen and nickel. Stainless steel is, in turn, used in the following products:

Paper clips
Filing cabinets
Motor vehicles
Garden tools
Cooking pots and pans
Washing machines
Drink cans etc.

This is only a small sample of what stainless steel is used for. There are well over 100 uses altogether with new products regularly being added.

Ironically, iron ore is no doubt the worlds most valuable rock and because of it being so readily available is also one of the cheapest to mine. It is definitely a major contributor to the advancement of mankind.

Australian Mines that produce Iron Ore

Tallawang ( NSW )

The Tullawang underground mine at Gulong near Mudgee in Central Western New South Wales is the state's sole magnetite producer.

Francis Creek ( NT )

Chinese mining company, Noble Group, acquired the Francis Creek ion ore mine in the Northern Territory off Territory Resources in 2011 as an operating mine.

Mt Moss ( QLD )

Mount Moss, an iron ore mine, at Ewan, in Queensland, is fully owned by Curtain Brothers who purchased it in 2005 off Jervois Mining NL.

Cairn Hill ( SA )

The Cairn Hill, iron, copper and gold mine, 55 kilometres from Coober Pedy in South Australia, commenced production in December 2010.

Middleback Range ( SA )

The Middleback Range iron ore open cut mine in South Australia, that is owned by Arrium Limited, produces haematite and magnetite ore for steel production.

Kara ( TAS )

The Kara open pit mine at Hampshire in North West Tasmania, 22 kilometres south of Burnie, mines scheelite for export and magnetite for domestic use.

Savage River ( TAS )

The Savage River mine operates 24 hours a day every day of the year high up in the Tasmanian mountains where rainfall averages 2,000 mm annually.

Bhp Yandi ( WA )

The Yandi iron ore mine is one of seven open pit mines operated by BHP B in the Pilbara Region that will be effected by massive expansion plans.

Balmoral Central ( WA )

Balmoral Central, one of the biggest magnetite deposits in Western Australia, will be exploited as part of the giant Sino Iron Project at Cape Preston.

Brockman No 2 ( WA )

The Brockman No. 2 iron ore mine in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia was temporarily closed in 2008 as a result of the Global Financial Crisis.

Brockman No 4 ( WA )

The Brockman No.4 iron ore open cut mine in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia that commenced production in 2010, is 60 kilometres from Tom Price.

Christmas Creek ( WA )

The Christmas Creek Iron Ore Mine is one of two open cut iron mines operated by Fortescue Metals Group in the Pilbara Region of W.A.

Cloudbreak ( WA )

The first iron ore mine developed by Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia, was the giant Cloudbreak Open Cut Mine.

Cockatoo Island ( WA )

The Cockatoo Island iron ore mine, 200 kilometres north of Broome off the W.A. Kimberley coast, is the only under-sea mining operation in the world.

Eastern Range ( WA )

The Eastern Range iron ore open pit mine is located in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia 10 kilometres from the mining centre of Paraburdoo.

Extension Hill ( WA )

The Extension Hill mine in WA survives a company shake up as Iron Ore prices nose dive during 2012 as owner, Mt Morgan, buys up further nearby tenements.

Hope Downs ( WA )

The giant Hope Downs iron ore project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia has the capacity to mine over 30 million tonnes of ore a year.

Jack Hills ( WA )

The Jack Hills iron ore mine in the Mid West Region of Western Australia has had its expansion plans approved by the Western Australian Government.

Jimblebar ( WA )

In June 2013 BHP Billiton accepted increased shareholding in their Jimblebar iron ore mine in the Pilbara from two Japanese companies Mitsui and Itochu.

Koolan Island ( WA )

Mt Gibson Iron Limited has re-created the Koolan Island iron ore mine in northern Western Australia after it was filled with 10 billion litres of seawater.

Koolanooka ( WA )

The Koolanooka iron ore project in Western Australia is fully owned by Chinese company Sino Steel through its subsidiary Sinosteel Midwest Corporation.

Koolyanobbing ( WA )

The Koolyanobbing mine in the heart of the Goldfields in W.A. produces lump and fine iron ore products for the export market from the Esperance port.

Marandoo ( WA )

Water from the Marandoo iron ore mine in W.A. is used to irrigate Rio Tinto's Hamersley cattle station that is producing 25,000 tonnes of hay annually.

Mining Area C ( WA )

Mining Area C had been exporting bulk samples of its product since 2001 but was officially opened at the end of October 2003.

Mt Jackson ( WA )

The Mount Jackson iron ore mine in W.A. is part of the Cliffs Natural Resources Koolyanobbing operation in the Eastern Goldfields west of Kalgoorlie.

Mt Tom Price ( WA )

Mount Tom Price is an open pit iron ore mine in Western Australia with on site processing contributing fines and lump sum ore to Rio Tinto's Pilbara blend.

Mt Whaleback ( WA )

The massive Mount Whaleback iron ore mine in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia is the largest single pit in the world at over five kilometres long.

Nammuldi ( WA )

The Rio Tinto owned Nammuldi iron ore mine in Western Australia that is located 60 kilometres from Tom Price is to deploy driver-less trucks on- site.

Nullagine ( WA )

The Nullagine mine in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia is a relatively new project developed by BC Iron Limited and Fortesque Metals Group (FMG).

Orebody 18 ( WA )

The BHP Billiton Orebody 18 mine located 34 kilometres east of the mining centre of Newman in Western Australia is operated by mining contractor McMahon.

Orebody 23 ( WA )

Orebody 23 is an open cut iron ore mine in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia. It is near the mining town of Newman and majority owned by BHP Billiton.

Orebody 25 ( WA )

Orebody 25 is a satellite open cut iron ore mine owned by BHP Billiton at the Mount Newman operation in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia.

Orebody 29 ( WA )

Orebody 29 is an open cut iron ore mine in Western Australia about four kilometres from the mining town of Newman and over 1,000 km from Perth.

Paraburdoo ( WA )

Greater Paraburdoo open cut iron ore mine in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia includes the Paraburdoo, Eastern Range and Channer pits.

Pardoo ( WA )

The Pardoo (Atlas) iron ore mine in the east Pilbara Region of Western Australia was Atlas's first operational mine having commenced production in 2008.

Robe River ( WA )

The Robe River iron ore mine in W.A., often referred to as the Mesa J Mine, has closed, however, it has been replaced by the Mesa A and West Angelas.

Spinifex Ridge Hematite ( WA )

Spinifex Ridge hematite mine in W.A. began production in December 2010 with the ambition of producing one million tonnes of iron ore a year.

Tallering Peak ( WA )

Tallering Peak, now in its 10th year, is expected to mine 2.5 million tonnes of iron ore in the 2012/13 financial year, its final year of production.

West Angelas ( WA )

The West Angelas iron ore mine in W.A. is Rio Tinto's “Mine of the Future' as much of it's mining activity is remotely controlled from its Perth office.

Western Turner Syncline ( WA )

Rio Tinto's Western Turner Syncline Mine in Western Australia involves mining contractor NRW and the Eastern Guruma traditional owners as joint venturers.

Windarling ( WA )

The Windarling iron ore mine, 135 kilometres north of Southern Cross in Western Australia, is a part of Cliffs Natural Resources Koolyanobbing operation.

Yarrie ( WA )

The Yarrie mine in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia has been operating since 1983. Its fixed ore processing plant has been placed on care and maintenance.

Mount Newman ( WA )

The Mount Newman open cut iron ore mine in the Pilbara Region of W.A. is the world's largest open cut mine at five kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide.

Wodgina ( WA )

The Wodgina open cut iron ore mine in the North Pilbara Region of Western Australia is an integral part of Atlas Iron Limited's grand expansion plans.

Yandicoogina Junction ( WA )

Yandicoogina-Junction iron ore mine expansion approval granted in late 2012 by the W.A government will see its mining continuing well into the 2020's.

Channar Hamersley ( WA )

The Channar-Hamersley mine in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia is joint venture owned by Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd and Sinosteel Channar Pty Ltd.

Karara Project ( WA )

The Karara iron ore mine in W.A., 200 kilometres east of Geraldton, is the first major magnetite mine to be developed in the mid-west region of the state.

Solomon ( WA )

The first train load of iron ore left the Solomon Hub in December 2012 for Port Hedland with the formal opening of the Firetail mine taking place in May 2013.

Sino Iron Project ( WA )

The giant Sino Iron Project in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia is getting closer to production as delaying problems are coming to an end.

Roy Hill ( WA )

The Roy Hill iron ore project in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia includes a new port, 344 kilometres of railway and a 55 million tonne a year mine.

Mt Webber ( WA )

The Mt Webber iron ore mine in the Western Australia Pilbara Region is due to begin production in April 2014 with contractor BGC being awarded the mining contract.

Kwinana Fe Hismelt Smelter ( WA )

The Kwinana - Fe HIsmelt Smelter in W.A., a pilot plant using a revolutionary process for smelting iron, is in the process of being shipped to China.

North Star ( WA )

A joint venture agreement with Formosa Plastics Group has given fresh impetus to the development of Fortescue Metals' North Star Hematite Project in WA.

Roper Bar ( NT )

Although the NT Roper Bar Project was officially opened last December, it really got underway on January 13, 2014, after Thiess received the contract.

Mountain Creek ( NT )

The Mountain Creek Project in the Northern Territory's Roper Bar Province is situated north west of the new Roper Bar iron ore open cut mine.

Riley ( TAS )

The Riley iron ore project being developed on the West Coast of Tasmania by Venture Minerals Limited is preparing to commence production in early 2014.

Nelson Bay River ( TAS )

Nelson Bay River iron ore mine in North West Tasmania to export its first shipment of iron ore from the Burnie port on 25th or 26th of January 2014.

Abydos ( WA )

The Abydos open pit iron ore mine in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia was officially opened on October 10, 2013 making it Atlas Iron's fourth mine.

Mt Dove ( WA )

Despite it being a micro mine, the Mt Dove iron ore mine in W.A. has acted as a stepping stone for Atlas Iron to achieve its 12 million tonne target.

Peculiar Knob ( SA )

The Southern Iron hemitite mine at Peculiar Knob, 90 kilometres south east of Coober Pedy in South Australia, produces 3.3 million tonnes annually.

Blue Hills ( WA )

The Blue Hills iron ore mine in W.A., that has an expected life of three years, is now in production after being delayed owing to depressed iron ore prices.

Iron Knob ( SA )

The historic Iron Knob mine near Whyhalla in South Australia is to be restarted under the ownership of Arrium Mining with BCG winning the mining contract.

Mount Peake ( WA )

The Northern Territory government has declared Major Project Status on the Mount Peake vanadium-iron-titanium project 235 kilometres from Alice Springs.

Wiluna West ( WA )

The Wiluna West iron ore project in Western Australia, owned by GWR Group Limited, is ready to complete development and move into the production stage.

Wilcherry Hill ( SA )

The Wilcherry Hill magnetite mine in South Australia is expected to export around one million tonnes of iron ore in its first year of production.

Olary Creek ( SA )

Olary Creek, a part of the Area C Iron Sands Project being developed in the Olary Region of S.A. could become a significant iron sand mining project.

Barrambie ( WA )

The Barrambie titanium and vanadium mine in Western Australia is to use proprietary hydrometallurgical acid leaching technology in its metals recovery process.

South Taranki Bight ( NZ )

The South Taranki Bight Project, off the coast of Patea in New Zealands North Island, is an offshore iron ore sand mining proposal.

Extension ( WA )

The Extension iron ore mine in Western Australia will be the first iron ore mine in Australia to be owned and operated by Aboriginal Australian.

Ridges Iron Ore ( WA )

The Ridges Iron Ore mine in the Kimberley region of far north Western Australia is poised to resume production again when global iron ore prices improve from their current low levels.

McPhee Creek ( WA )

The McPhee Creek DSO iron ore project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia is poised for development once global iron ore prices return to more profitable levels.

Hardey APIJV ( WA )

A decision on the future of the Hardey/APIJV iron ore project in the West Pilbara region of Western Australia will be made in the latter half of 2016.

Turee Syncline ( WA )

The Turee Syncline iron ore project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia is planned to be developed by Rio Tinto Iron Ore to increase its Pilbara production rate.

Koodaideri ( WA )

Once constructed, the Koodaideri open cut iron ore mine in Western Australia, will be one of the largest operating mines in the Pilbara.

Rocklea CID ( WA )

The advanced Rocklea CID, that is part of the larger Pilbara Iron Project, being developed by Chinese company, Dragon Energy Limited, is being held up because of low iron ore prices.

Mt Pyrton Project ( WA )

The Mt Pyrton project in the Hamersley basin of the Pilbara region of Western Australia has had its iron ore assets boosted with the addition of the Caliwingina resource.

Beasley River Limonite ( WA )

The Beasley River Limonite deposit, that is located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia is jointly owned to three Japanese companies and Rio Tinto.

Marillana Creek ( VIC )

The Marillana Creek – Yandi iron ore project, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, is part of the greater Yandi iron ore deposit.

Nyidinghu ( WA )

The Nyidinghu project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia has substantially increased the iron ore resource held by Fortescue Metals Group.

Ophthalmia ( WA )

The Ophthalmia iron ore project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia has the potential to support the Brockman owned Marillana project by sharing facilities.

Jinidi ( WA )

Further development of the Jinidi iron ore project in the Pilbara region of WA is dependant on market conditions.

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