World distribution of iron ore reserves
China now emerged as a leading iron ore-producing country in the world. Till 1975, its production of iron ore in the world was only 6.5 per cent, but in year 2000, China produced 24.3 per cent iron ore of the world. This percentage further increased to 30.77 in year 2006-07, accordingly China is now first in iron ore production in the world. Its annual production of iron ore is about 520 million tons. China has large iron ore deposits, of which the Manchurian deposits are the most actively mined. Other important regions are the Lower Chang (Yangtze) at Ma’anshan and Tayeh, the Chungking area, and around Taiyuan. Scattered deposits occur in the peninsula, north of Baotou (Paotow), border of Xinjiang (Sinking), at Kiuchure, in the lower Xi Jiang (Si Kang), near Guangzhou (Canton), and on the island of Hainan in the south.
Brazil is the world’s second largest iron ore-producing country contributing 17.75 per cent of the world’s total production. Till 1975 its percentage in world production of iron ore was 9.2. The main iron ore-producing areas are located in Itabiria in south-east Brazil. Itabiria is believed to be the richest iron ore reserves in the world – estimated reserves of 35,000 million metric tons.
Brazil’s other important areas of iron ore are: Urucum (Mato Grosso), Catalao (Goias) and Ipanema (Sao Panto). The Carajas iron ore reserve is now identified as one of the main reserves of Brazil. Largely due to the output of this region, Brazil now leads the world in iron ore exports.
Australia produced 270 million metric tons of iron ore in 2007 and ranks third in world production with 15.98 per cent production. Australia has widely distributed iron ore deposits and reserves which are very large.
The recent working of vast iron ore fields in Western Australia at Mt. Gold-worthy, Mt. Whaleback, Mt. Bruce, Mt. Tom Price, and at Yami Sound has greatly increased production. In Southern Australia, the largest deposit occurs in Iron Knob, Iron Monark, etc. Australia exports most of its iron ore to Japan and European countries.
Distribution of Iron Ore in India
India is one of the richest countries of the world in iron ore deposits, particularly the hematite ore. 95 percent of the hematite resources are distributed in Odisha, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Goa. Magnetite resources are estimated at around 10,619 million tons out of which only 59 million tons is situated mainly in Goa, Rajasthan and Jharkhand. The rest 10,560 million tons or the 99 percent of the magnetite resource is in ‘Remaining Resources’ category which is mainly found in Karnataka (74 percent) and Andhra Pradesh (14 percent).
The undivided USSR was the leading iron ore-producing country in the world. As shown in Table 8.1, in 1960 and 1975, the production of USSR was 21.2 and 25.4 per cent respectively of the world. But, in 2000 and 2006, it was 6.3 and 6.21 per cent respectively. Now, Russia ranks fifth in iron ore-producing countries of the world. The yearly production of Russia is about 105 million metric tons.
Ukraine is the sixth leading producer of iron ore in the world and it produced 4.32 per cent of the world production in 2006. Krivoi Rog of Ukraine possesses best iron ore having 68.5 per cent metallic percentage. It contributes 75 per cent production of Ukraine. The estimated reserves of the region are more than 200 million tons. Other regions of Ukraine are Zaporozhe, Zdanow, Lipetsk and Kerch Peninsula.
Once USA was the highest iron ore-producing country of the world. As indicated in Table 8.1, the percentage of world production of iron ore was 18.1 in 1960 and 9.8 in 1975. But now it produces less than 4 per cent of the world’s production and ranks 7th. The four main iron ore-producing regions of USA are Lake Superior region, north-eastern region, south-eastern region and western region.
South Africa emerged as a leading iron ore-producing country of the African continent and ranks 8th in the world iron ore production. In South Africa Transvaal is the main iron ore-producing centre. Transvaal is having high-grade ore with 60 to 65 per cent iron content. The total reserves have been estimated at 10 billion tons in South Africa. The average annual production of South Africa is 4 million metric tons.
Canada produces 1.95 per cent of the total world production of iron ore in 2006. Canada has iron ore in the Lake Superior region, as does the USA. The main centres are Schefferville and Wabush City. The iron field covers some 51,800 sq km and is estimated to have 400 million tons of iron reserves. Ore is taken by rail to Sept Isles on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and shipped via St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes to Canadian and US steel-making centres.
Sweden is a major iron ore producer in Europe and ranks 10th in the world production. It produces 1.42 per cent of the total iron ore production in 2006. The major iron ore mines of Sweden are located at Kiruna, Malmberget, Dannemore, Grangeberg, Falun, Fargesta, etc. The ore is having high grade magnetite iron, in which iron content is 65 per cent. Sweden used to export about 80 per cent of its production to its neighbouring European countries.
In the 19th century Great Britain was the leading producer of iron ore of the world but now it is no more in prominence and most of its ores have been exhausted. The area of eastern England is the most important in output of iron ore stretching from Yorkshire through Lincolnshire, Rutland, and Northamptonshire. UK is now a major iron ore importing country.
The major producing areas of France are Lorraine, Normandy and Pyrenees. The Lorraine district supplies about 95 per cent of country’s total. Though the metallic content of the ores is about 35 per cent on the average, it can be smelted at a low cost because of calcium carbonate content in the ore. It is the largest single ore-body reserve in Europe. It helped much in setting up steel plants in France.
The major iron ore-producing areas of Germany are located in West Germany, these are: Saar Vogelsburg, Erzeburg and Westphalia. Germany has considerable reserves of medium quality of ore located in the eastern part of Rhine valley, Siege and Lahn river valley.
In Africa, apart from South Africa, other countries having iron ore mining are Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Liberia and Mauritania. Mauritania is the 15th iron ore-producing country of the world, which has produced 0.65 per cent iron ore of the world in 2006.