Mining Iron Ore in Africa
Because iron ore is the key ingredient of steel, and nearly 95% of the metal used every year around the world is steel – iron is the most frequently used metal in the world. Iron-rich rocks are found all over the world but the rocks are only ore-grade and suited for commercial production in some countries. The limitations to iron ore mining are not because of the size or grade of the ore, but rather the costs associated with mining the ore and transporting it. It is a capital intensive industry that requires significant investment in infrastructure. Around two billion metric tonnes of raw iron ore is produced every year. The international consumption of iron ore is growing by around 10% every year, and the main consumers are Japan, China, Korea, the European Union and the United States.
Uses for Iron Ore
Iron ore is the main ingredient in steel which is used in various applications around the world including structural engineering, manufacturing of cars and ships and general machinery. Steel is also used in the safety industry for personal vests and vehicle armour. Most of the large structures in the world like stadiums, skyscrapers, airports and bridges are supported by a steel skeleton. Even the bolts, screws and nails that keep the structures together are fabricated with steel. In car manufacturing steel is the main material used for car bodies.
The History of Mining Iron Ore
Iron ore was excavated and steel was forged as early as 1800BC. This was discovered when ironware was excavated from archaeological sites in Anatolia. Steel weapons like the falcata in the Iberian Peninsula were also produced in early years. Metal production sites in Sri Lanka used the elements by employing wind furnaces driven by the monsoon winds typical of the area. By the sixth century BC Tamilakam produced steel by using crucibles and carbon sources like local plants. This was the innovative precursor to modern metallurgy and steel production.
Where Iron Ore is Mined
Iron ore is mined and produced in countries around the world including China, Australia, Brazil, India, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa, United States, Iran, Canada, Sweden and Kazakhstan. The Brazilian mining corporation Vale is the largest iron ore producer in the world. The Anglo-Australian companies BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are second. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, also an Australian supplier has greatly contributed to bringing Australia to the second place.
Iron Ore Mining in Africa
The African countries in which iron ore production for export and local use is most prevalent are South Africa, Algeria and Mauritania. Morocco and Zimbabwe also produce ore, but only for local use. Many African countries have vast iron ore deposits that are not yet mined. Nearly 70% of the South African iron ore operations are conducted by Kumba Iron Ore Limited – one of the world’s top suppliers of seaborne iron ore. Kumba operates three mines, Kolomela and Sishen in the Northern Cape Province and Thabazimbi in the Limpopo Province.