The Total Addressable Market (TAM) for Iron Ore was valued at USD 275.04 billion in 2022. It is estimated to reach USD 350.80 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 2.74% during the forecast period (2023–2031). Iron ore is the third most abundant element on Earth. Hematite and magnetite are the principal components of iron ore. Iron ore comprises more than 60% iron compounds, most of which are magnetite or hematite. These ores are known as "direct shipping" or "natural ore," as they can be directly fed into the iron-making blast furnace. Sedimentary rocks contain iron ore deposits, which are used to extract metal iron.
Iron ore is insufficient for construction and other uses, so raw iron is alloyed with tungsten, manganese, nickel, vanadium, and chromium. Nearly 97% of steel across the globe is produced from iron. Steel is an iron ore product used in various industrial applications, including building and car manufacturing. Iron ore is vital to the global iron and steel industries.
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Healthy Growth of the Construction Industry
According to BHP, 98% of iron ore is converted into pigment iron for steelmaking. This steel is used in buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure. Structural steel finds numerous applications in constructing low and high-rise buildings, sports stadiums, bridge deck plates, harbors, cladding and roofing, offices, security fencing, and coastal and flood defenses. This application is attributed to its immense strength, which makes it an ideal choice for constructing buildings. Additionally, structural steel is tensile, ductile, flexible, and cost-effective. Population growth, economic growth, high investments in building infrastructure, and a rise in tourism because of mega-events are the main things making the construction industry grow.
Investments in building infrastructure, affordable housing, healthcare, education, and hospitality to promote tourism are expected to be critical to the growth of the global construction industry. The growth of the iron ore market is driven by the rise of the construction industry in emerging regional markets, especially in India and China, where both residential and commercial construction is on the rise, as well as by rising living standards and rising disposable incomes per person.
Growing Use of Steel in the Automotive and Transportation Industries
Steel is used to make cars' frames, panels, doors, engine blocks, gears, suspensions, wheels, fuel tanks, steering systems, and braking systems. Advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) is also being used more because it helps reduce the vehicle's weight and makes it more fuel efficient. By making new grades of AHSS, manufacturers have cut the overall weight of vehicles by 25–39% compared to traditional steel. The use of electric and hybrid cars to cut down on CO2 emissions and the use of petrochemicals are expected to increase the demand for steel in the automotive industry. In addition, iron oxide-based paints and coatings provide improved aesthetics, durability, and functionality.
Stainless steel is used in many essential ways on ships, boats, and yachts. Durability is a significant issue because watercraft travel at high speeds through choppy water and wind. The growth of the global iron ore market over the next few years is likely driven by the high demand for lightweight, electric, or battery-powered cars worldwide.
Stringent Government Regulations on Mining Activities
A complex regulatory framework governs mining operations all over the world. Significant environmental problems are caused by mining. It produces a lot of waste materials, including waste rock, tailings, acid mine drainage, airborne dust, and other dangerous materials that end up on land, in the air, or water. Due to these factors, mining operations are subject to several strict environmental regulations. Workers involved in mining operations risk being exposed to toxic gases and dust, mine collapses, equipment malfunctions, explosions, hearing loss from loud machinery, and heatstroke, all of which are harmful to the environment. As a result, the International Labour Organization, which works to uphold workers' rights, determined that a convention was necessary to safeguard mineworkers' health and well-being. The last convention for this purpose was signed in 1995 and was called the Safety and Health in Mines Convention. Therefore, the growth of the global iron ore market is likely to be constrained by strict regulations on mining activities over the forecast period.
Increasing Adoption of Iron Oxide Pigments in Various Applications
Iron oxide is used to get rid of hydrogen sulfide, on oil drilling rigs, as a catalyst in the oil industry, and to make hydrogen gas, among other things. Iron oxide catalysts with zirconium and aluminum crack residual oil from petroleum in a steam environment to make light hydrocarbons. The importance of renewable energy has grown as the world's energy needs have grown, oil prices have gone up and down, and the climate has changed. Steam oxidizes metallic iron, releasing hydrogen and iron oxides in the process. The oxidation reaction produces hydrogen and steam as gaseous byproducts, allowing for very pure hydrogen production. Metalworking, producing flat glass as a protective and carrier gas, deposition processes, cleaning, etching, and reduction processes are just a few industrial uses for hydrogen.
In addition, due to their high transparency, color strength, and strong absorption of UV, iron oxide pigments work as UV radiation absorbers that protect the goods in the containers from UV radiation. Increased consumption of packaged food items and beverages on account of convenience and improved shelf life of products is likely to propel the growth of the iron ore market in the coming years.
The global iron ore market is segmented by product type, form, and end-user.
By product type, the global market is divided into hematite, magnetite, limonite, siderite, and others.
The hematite is the highest contributor to the market and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 2.82% over the forecast period. Hematite is one of the essential ores for iron pellets. It was mined at various locations across the world. Hematite is used to make pigments, shield against radiation, healing stones, a material for gems, heavy media separation and its preparations, ballast, and other things. Hematite ore can be used by many mining and steel-making companies because it contains a lot of iron and only needs to go through a simple crushing, screening, and mixing process before it can be used to make steel.
Magnetite combines iron (II) oxide FeO and iron (III) oxide Fe2O3, adding to Fe3O4 on paper. Magnetite has a higher iron content than hematite. But hematite ore has high iron concentrations, while magnetite ore has low concentrations of magnetite. They are often located in more extensive deposits, sometimes found in the sand on black beaches. Magnetite ore requires more treatment, and the end products made from magnetite ore are of higher quality than hematite ore products, as magnetite ore has fewer impurities. This mineral is primarily applied in foundries, energy storage, and iron catalyst industries.
By form, the global market is divided into mining sites, sinter fines, lumps, pellets, and others.
The sinter fines segment owns the highest market share and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 2.76% over the forecast period. Sinter fines are created in the sinter plants, where the product can be used in the blast furnace. The sinter fines are small, irregular lumps of iron mixed with small amounts of other minerals. The main goal of the sintering process is to make lump iron ore, also called "iron ore fines," smaller so that it can be put straight into the blast furnace. Sintering accumulates iron ore fines (8 mm in general) through the incipient fusion of fine mineral particles with heat generated by burning coke breeze, which is uniformly distributed in the raw mix bed. As a pre-treatment step, iron ore fines are put through the sintering process to make a sinter, which is used to fill the blast furnace.
Pellets are a direct-charge input and require less processing. They are extensively used in steel mills for manufacturing purposes. Pellets let steel mills use less coking coal per ton of pig iron and increase productivity per cubic meter of blast furnace capacity. Pellets are less capital intensive, thus making steel mills less capital intensive. Pellets have a higher CAGR because they are quickly used in construction, automotive, transportation, medical, and other end-user industries.
By end-user, the global market is divided into steel manufacturing and other applications.
The steel manufacturing segment is the highest contributor to the market and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 2.73% over the forecast period. Steel is created from iron ore, a naturally occurring combination of iron, oxygen, and other minerals. Steel is used a lot in the building industry to make the foundations of the outside and inside buildings. Steel plates, galvanized sheets, wire rope, hot-rolled steel, cold-rolled steel, and others are some of the most often used steel in construction. The automotive industry is a vital client of the steel industry and, as a result, iron ore exports, with around one tonne of steel in each car. The medical, oil and gas, and electronics industries are some of the other end customers of steel manufacturing.
By region, the global iron ore market is divided into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East and Africa.
Asia-Pacific Dominates the Global Market
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Asia-Pacific is the most significant shareholder in the global iron ore market and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 2.69% during the forecast period. China produces the most iron ore in the Asia-Pacific region, followed by Japan, India, and Korea. Iron ore production is expected to rise in Asia-Pacific due to rapid development and industrialization. China has traditionally been the primary engine of global iron ore sector growth, which is projected to continue in the coming years. China's need for iron ore is mainly caused by its growing cities and industries and strong GDP growth, which is faster than most western countries.
Europe is expected to grow at a CAGR of 1.96% over the forecast period. Iron ore is primarily supplied by European countries such as the UK and Germany. In 2020, the steel sector employed over 326,400 people across the European Union, with Germany employing over 83,200 people. This was more than double the employment in the steel industry in Italy. Germany has also been the largest exporter of finished and semi-finished steel products to the EU over the past ten years, with over 24 million metric tons of exports. In addition, Turkey was the top importer of European steel in 2021, thanks to its significant automobile manufacturing sector. The growing demand for steel from the automotive industry in the region is likely to boost demand for the steel market. This is expected to accelerate the growth of the iron ore industry in the region over the forecast period.
North America is expected to grow significantly over the forecast period. The increasing demand for iron ore from the North American steelmaking industry is the primary driver of the iron ore market. The US is a significant contributor to the market in the region. The US is the third largest steel producer in the world, making up about 5.4% of the world's crude steel output, and is also one of the largest consumers of steel. The oil and gas, construction, and auto industries are all using more steel, which is good for business. Furthermore, cheaper and more efficient ways to make steel have helped increase the demand for US steel worldwide.
Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Peru are among the countries expected to rise in Latin America. According to the construction database, there are now 534 hotel projects under construction in Latin America, with Mexico leading the way. In addition, Saudi Arabia has the largest share in the Middle East and Africa thanks to the nation's expanding construction sector. Large investments by the government have been a significant factor in the growth of the country's primary construction. Furthermore, the country intends to boost tourism, as seen by the various hotel projects under construction in recent years. As a result, these development projects are expected to significantly affect the country's construction industry's needs. This is expected to boost the growth of the iron ore market.
The global iron ore market’s major key players are Vale, Rio Tinto, BHP, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, Ansteel Group Corporation Limited, ArcelorMittal, Anglo American, HBIS Group, EVRAZ PLC, Metalloinvest MC LLC, LKAB, and Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.