Iron ore is the main source of primary iron required for the global iron and steel industries. It is essential to produce steel, which helps to create and maintain a strong industrial base. Iron ore mining methods vary by the type of ore being mined. There are four main types of iron ore deposits worked currently, depending on the mineralogy and geology of the ore deposits. These are magnetite, titanomagnetite, massive hematite and pisolitic ironstone deposits.
The Earth’s most important iron ore deposits are found in sedimentary rocks. They formed from chemical reactions that combined iron and oxygen in marine and fresh waters. The two most important minerals in these deposits are iron oxides: hematite (Fe2O3) and magnetite (Fe3O4). These iron ores have been mined to produce almost every iron and steel object that we use today – from paper clips to automobiles to the steel beams in skyscrapers. Ores containing very high quantities of hematite or magnetite (greater than ~60% iron) are known as “natural ore” or “direct shipping ore”, meaning they can be fed directly into iron-making blast furnaces.