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Projection of Iron Ore Production

A Correction to this article was published on 20 November 2019

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A comprehensive country-by-country projection of world iron ore production is presented along with alternative scenarios and a sensitivity analysis. The supply-driven modelling approach follows Mohr (Projection of world fossil fuel production with supply and demand interactions, PhD Thesis,, 2010) using an ultimately recoverable resource of 346 Gt of iron ore. Production is estimated to have a choppy plateau starting in 2017 until 2050 after which production rapidly declines. The undulating plateau is due to Chinese iron ore production peaking earlier followed by Australia and Brazil in turn. Alternative scenarios indicate that the model is sensitive to increases in Australian and Brazilian resources, and that African iron ore production can shift the peak date only if the African Ultimately Recoverable Resources (URR) is 5 times larger than the estimate used. Changes to the demand for iron ore driven by substitution or recycling are not modelled. The relatively near-term peak in iron ore supply is likely to create a global challenge to manufacturing and construction and ultimately the world economy.

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Change history

  • 20 November 2019

    The original version of this article unfortunately contained an error in Equation��3.

  • 20 November 2019

    The original version of this article unfortunately contained an error in Equation��3.


  1. A particular form of the general logistic equation.

  2. If \(n =1 \) then the equation is the Hubbert Curve, and \(t_p\) is the peak year.

  3. USGS reserve base includes USGS reserves as well as marginally economic reserves and sub-economic resources (USGS 2013a).

  4. China produces 44 % world production—see Sect. 2.

  5. British Geological Survey (1922–2012); Mitchell (1981, 1982, 1983); Rothwell (1896–1922); Australian Bureau of Statistics (1908–2012); Natural Resources Canada (1995–2012); Canadian Mineral Industry (1955-2012); Dominion Bureau of Statistics (1957); USGS (1933–2011, 2012, 2013a, b).

  6. Constant for all countries.

  7. Note the USGS has recently stopped including reserve base numbers.

  8. See e.g. Deffeyes (2002) and Sandrea (2006).

  9. that is the asymmetry term \(n\) used for the two cycles appears to be 1 in Eq. 1.

  10. Defined as the Ultimately Recoverable Resources minus cumulative production.


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Part of this research was undertaken as part of the Minerals Futures Collaboration Cluster, a research initiative comprising the Australian CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation); The University of Queensland; The University of Technology, Sydney (UTS); Curtin University; CQUniversity; and The Australian National University. This research was also supported by the Wealth from Waste Cluster, a collaboration between UTS, The University of Queensland, Swinburne University of Technology, Monash University, Yale University and CSIRO. The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of each partner and the CSIRO Flagship Collaboration Fund.

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Correspondence to Steve Mohr.

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Mohr, S., Giurco, D., Yellishetty, M. et al. Projection of Iron Ore Production. Nat Resour Res 24, 317–327 (2015).

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  • Iron ore
  • Projected production
  • Resource depletion