Australia is the largest producer of iron ore in the world, producing approximately 37% of the world’s production (USGS 2018). Iron ore is categorised depending on where it is produced and priced, by its iron content and level of impurities. The main minerals associated with iron ore processing are hematite (Fe2O3), magnetite (Fe3O4) and goethite (FeO·OH). The processing of iron ore is relatively simple, which involves concentrating the iron by removing impurities via communition and beneficiation to produce a high-grade product. The beneficiation methods depend on the iron ore mineral but can include magnetic separation, scrubbing, flotation and beneficiation through size classification.
The primary use of iron ore is in the manufacturing of irons and steels. Steel is produced by smelting iron ore to reduce the iron oxides to form pig iron before having impurities such as silicon, phosphorous and sulphur removed to form a steel product.