Australian based BHP Billiton has seen demand for its iron ore flagging, in particular from China where the company predicts the slow-down in growth to 7-8% continuing possibly for the next 10 years
Despite this, they see the demand for iron ore growing by 650Mt 2020, but below the 800Mt predicted earlier.
Iron ore prices recovered to around $114/t in October from a low of $87/t in September thanks to Chinese mills starting to restock, but this price is well below the $200/t reached earlier in 2011.
BHP Billiton plans to increase output by 5% by July 2013 hoping that its low production costs ($20-30/t) from economies of scale will enable it to capture markets from smaller producers who gained ground during the high price periods. Quarterly iron ore production is currently steady at 98.8Mt.
BHP expect to win an increasing share of the Chinese market as lower prices make domestic mining of some of low grade ores in China uneconomic and also India has curtailed ore exports to China in a bid to prevent illegal mining in India and also conserve supplies to domestic mills.
BHP Billiton’s main competitors are Vale in Brazil and Rio Tinto, headquartered in London and with major iron-ore concessions in Australia. Geographically, Australia is the preferred supplier to China. In the first 8 month 2012 while overall imports of ore by China rose 8/7%, those from Australia jumped by over 20% to 222.7Mt.